April 18, 2011

Endeca topics

I visited my then-clients at Endeca in January. We focused on underpinnings (and strategic counsel) more than on coolness in what the product actually does. But going over my notes I think there’s enough to write up now.

Before saying much else about Endeca, there’s one confusion to dispose of: What’s the relationship between Endeca’s efforts in e-commerce (helping shoppers navigate websites) and business intelligence (helping people navigate their own data)? As Endeca tells it:

Endeca’s positioning in the business intelligence market boils down to “investigative analytics for people who aren’t hardcore analysts.” Endeca’s technological support for that stresses: 

Here “diverse sources of data” can mean two things:

That said, the Endeca paradigm is really to help you make your way through a structured database, where different portions of the database have different structures. Thus, at various points in your journey, it automagically provides you a list of choices as to where you could go next.

Underneath Endeca’s visible products is an engine called MDEX, about which Endeca says:

Inside the MDEX Engine there is no overarching schema; each data record carries its own metadata. This enables the rapid combination of a wide range of structured and unstructured content into Latitude’s unified data model. Once inside, the MDEX Engine derives common dimensions and metrics from the available metadata, instantly exposing each for high-performance refinement and analysis in the Discovery Framework. Have a new data source? Simply add it and the MDEX Engine will create new relationships where possible. Changes in source data schema? No problem, adjustments on the fly are easy.

While that is rather QlikView-like in its goals, the details are different. Most notably, Endeca MDEX features a disk-based columnar DBMS, whose highlights include:

On the business intelligence market penetration side, Endeca talked mainly about:

Specific applications mentioned included:


11 Responses to “Endeca topics”

  1. John M. Wildenthal on April 18th, 2011 3:25 pm

    Their statement about “no overarching schema; each data record carries its own metadata”, “derives common dimensions and metrics from the available metadata”, and “[the] MDEX Engine will create new relationships where possible” makes this sound kind of like illuminate. Could you highlight some of the differences?

  2. Curt Monash on April 18th, 2011 3:33 pm

    One difference is that Endeca seems to have a straightforward columnar DBMS and illuminate doesn’t.

    Another obvious difference is that what’s secondary to Endeca — data management — is primary to illuminate.

    Yet another difference is that Endeca is a company with heft, while illuminate doesn’t seem to have much mass outside Spain.

  3. Alan Lee on April 20th, 2011 10:42 am

    A couple of questions: (1) regarding the commentary of the relationship between the e-commerce and BI product lines, is there really any new technology that is associated with the Latitude launch? and (2) does all data need to be persisted (stored) in the MDEX rdbms to be available by the Discovery Framework or can external data be referenced?

  4. Curt Monash on April 20th, 2011 3:43 pm


    1) I’m pretty sure yes, but I lack details. (The post focused on the lower part of the stack for a reason. :D)

    2) I think they move the data into their own engine, but somebody from Endeca might prefer to (dis)confirm that directly.

  5. Adam Ferrari on April 20th, 2011 7:40 pm

    Good post, Curt. Agreed on the column store idealism observation as a good characterization of our approach, where performance is critical for our use cases, but simplicity of deployment (i.e., not having to invest a great deal of effort configuring how storage and indexing will work to get good performance) is also essential given our emphasis on agile deployment.

    Following up on Alan’s thread…
    On (1), our two product lines are based on the same core MDEX engine technology, which is where the majority of our IP resides. And the products share some additional common components such as our Content Acquisition System for crawling unstructured data, extracting structure from it, and loading it into the MDEX engine. But the tooling around the core is different in either case. For example, the Latitude product comes with a complete component based UI framework for analytic applications (the Discovery Framework mentioned in the post), which includes a suite of out-of-the-box MDEX-powered UI components that draw on many of the user experience lessons we’ve learned (and continue to learn) from powering so many big name web sites. Meanwhile, our eBusiness product includes site management tools, e.g., for controlling site structure such as search-triggered landing pages, and for managing SEO on dynamic search and navigation pages.

    On (2), we do pull into the MDEX any data needed to power the analytics, data navigation, and search experience in the Discovery Framework. This is essential to our approach for delivering interactive speed exploration of semi-structured data, which relies on having the data stored in a compressed columnar structure with strong memory caching (I talk about this here: http://facets.endeca.com/2010/10/in-memory-but-not-memory-bound/). That said, we don’t pull in auxiliary data that isn’t needed for analytic computations. For example, if there are images associated with the data records in the MDEX, we’ll simply store a reference to the file (usually just a URL) rather than the actual image data.

  6. Sam Thukral on May 23rd, 2011 4:57 am

    Is there still the concept of “baseline” vs “partial” updates to the MDEX engine in Endeca? As I remember hearing, 6.0+ was going to make all updates “partial” (not fully re-indexing data). This was a critical need for a few projects I’ve dealt with in the past. Great article, btw!

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