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The Perfect Storm: eDiscovery and Cloud Service Providers

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Perfect Storm: eDiscovery and Cloud Service Providers

The market for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) is very sunny.  Forrester Research predicted in a research report published earlier this year titled, “Sizing the Cloud” that the global cloud computing market would reach $241 billion in 2020 compared to $40.7 in 2010.  And, Gartner Predicts that the eDiscovery market will reach $1.5 Billion by 2013.  However, based upon the research that I have completed over the past sixty (60) days, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and their clients are ignoring eDiscovery as an important component of a standard cloud service offering.

I have some theories in regards to why this is the case:


Over the pat five (5) years Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) have been busy focusing on their core offerings of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), honing their value propositions and trying to figure out how to differentiate themselves from the pack.  Overwhelmed with the rudimentary issues of what to offer and how to make a profit , eDiscovery has not been a requirement that has reached the road map of any CSPs that I have interviewed.

Most of the reasons behind this is the fact that eDiscovery is actually a "
latent pain" that the CSP's clients and prospects are not asking for (I will cover this in more detail in the next section).  However, part of the reason may be just plain semantics.  I have found that when you ask a CSP business development executive if their clients are asking about eDiscovery, the answer will be no.  However, if you change the question and ask if their clients are asking about information governance, compliance, business analytics or something even simpler like universal or federated search, the answer may be yes.  This subtle difference is confusing to most in the eDiscovery market and therefore it is no wonder that it is very confusing to the CSP market.As In indicated in my Blog post on September 15, 2011,titled, "Evolving from Information Governance to eDiscovery", I believe that eDiscovery is actually part of a larger market called information governance (IG).  And, as Sunil Soares, the Director of Information Governance within the IBM Software Group indicated in a blog post on April 11, 2011 titled, Why Information Governance is a Market, Not Just a Process, “information governance is like the blind man and the elephant. Depending on which part of the elephant you touch, people define information governance to include master data management, data stewardship, data quality management, metadata management, business glossaries, information lifecycle management and security and privacy.” 

I would actually include several other components as integral parts of IG in pursuit of my premise that if Gartner predicts that the eDiscovery market is going to reach $1.5 Billion by 2013, the information governance market is going to be many times this size.  Or, in other words, more than likely the largest  software and services market on the planet in the next five (5) years (Note that HP paid $11 Billion for Autonomy to play in the IG Market).

So, maybe CSPs need to think of eDiscovery as Information Governance and concentrate on the fact that information governance is potentially the single biggest market on the planet in the coming years?

Another interesting fact emerged from my recent study on eDiscovery in the CSP market.  It appears that most CSP enterprise clients don't understand eDiscovery.  Come to find out, a very high percentage of the standard CSP client base are actually "renegade" business units with global 2000 enterprises that were unhappy being held hostage by their IT organizations and decided to outsource their information management to a CSP.  Unless the business unit in question is the legal department (which is highly unlikely), the stakeholders within these units have no idea what eDiscovery or information governance is or would they know to even ask their CSP if it can be supported if the need were to present itself.

After further investigation into this market dynamic, the story actually gets even more interesting.  If one of these global 2000 enterprises is sued and is presented with a request to produce information (ESI) or some governance regulatory entity asks for proof of compliance, the request is normally handled by the General Counsel (GC) and legal department.  More than likely the first place the GC will go is to the IT department asking for its help in producing the requested data (Please note that most global 2000 enterprises are now relatively adept at the process of internal eDiscovery).  However, the GC may not even know to ask about the data (ESI) from the renegade business unit and if they do, the renegade business unit is not going to know how to comply with the request and their IT department is probably not going to help since they are no at all happy that they went to a CSP for IT services in the first place.  Given all of this, the business unit executives or the GC may call the CSP and ask for help.  However, since the CSP doesn't really understand eDiscovery, they aren't going to be much help.  Basically, at this point the entire eDiscvoery process can get pretty ugly.  The GC is under a legal obligation to respond (i.e. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) under a fairly limited time frame with financial and other sanctions are real possibilities for non-compliance with the request.

THE PERFECT STORMSo, unfortunately, what I have determined to be the current status in the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) market is the perfect storm of neither the CSP or the CSP's client base understanding the need for eDiscovery.  However, there are solutions and there is hope.

The roadmap to success for the CSPs is actually not that complicated.  CSPs need to get serious about providing eDiscovery and/or information governance as a component or their standard offering.

In a January 8, 2012 blog post titled, "Cloud Computing Architecture and eDiscovey", I stated that "It is within the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) layer where eDiscovery services belong.  In fact, this may be a good time to coin the term eDiscovery-as-a-Service (eDaaS)... And, since providing eDaaS as a standard option for any PaaS offering makes so much sense and could provide a first mover and key competitive advance for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), I predict that we will see several eDaaS offerings before the end of 2012.  And, I also predict that once the eDaaS offerings hit the market, the legacy eDiscovery platform providers will be forced to re-evaluate the value propositions of their non eDaaS offerings in the cloud."

CSPs can contact me at for additional insight on which technology vendors currently have or are about to announce eDaaS offerings.

The roadmap to success for the CSP clients is also actually not that complicated.  First of all, enterprise business unit stakeholders need to add eDiscovery and Information Governance to  their list of requirements for the CSPs.  And, they need to seek out and collaborate with their legal and IT departments in regards to a plan to follow when an eDiscovery and/or compliance event occurs.  It just make sense and its not complicated.

Enterprise stakeholders that are contemplating or already working with a CSP can contact me at for additional insight on what to expect from their CSP and what best practices to follow when an eDiscovery and/or compliance event occurs.

Both the cloud and the eDiscovery / Information Governance trains have left the station and therefore it is no longer an option for either Cloud Service Providers or their clients to ignore the legal requirements and business benefits.  The current practices to address the issues of eDiscovery or Information Governance are ugly at best.  However, the roadmap for success is not that complicated.  And, the rewards for both the CSP and their clients is well worth the investment.

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