As we approach Halloween, it is fun to think of the scariest villains and boogey men. From the creepy clown from IT to Freddy Kreuger or Jason, nothing is quite as fear-inducing as the dreaded Frankenstack lurking behind even the most well-run ediscovery program today. If your organization is running terabytes of data through a ghastly hodgepodge of hardware and software pieced together over the last decade, Frankenstack may be more reality than nightmare.
Despite the fact that ediscovery is a relatively new concept (codified by the amendments to the FRCP in 2006), most organizations are still operating their ediscovery program across a strange combination of legacy hardware and software combined with newer tools and bespoke solutions, stitched together with about as much forethought as Dr. Frankenstein's monster.
What is Frankenstack?
Much like the literary monstrosity, the Frankenstack is a combination of disparate hardware, software, and service providers stitched together into a single lumbering, grumbling technology behemoth. This conglomeration operates in parallel with newer tech and service providers — but the reliance on old tools prevents any benefits in efficiency.
This Frankenstack approach is due partially to the constant budgetary constraints that legal departments in corporations and litigation support programs at law firms are operating under; the desire to scale too ambitiously in any one calendar year; and the rapid but incomplete innovation that has typified ediscovery. The result is case data spanning multiple platforms and formats, hosted in hardware in various stages of needing replacement, with tools of asynchronous functionality peppered throughout. Scary indeed.
Whether it is a desire to stay current with the most innovative solutions, a lack of funding, dread about migrating from old systems, or a lack of functionality to support all enterprise needs with the tools in house, the resulting Frankenstack remains a terrifying and unpredictable adversary for any ediscovery program looking to drive efficiency and scalability in a secure manner.
What is so monstrous about the Frankenstack?
From the moment an exuberant Dr. Frankenstein exclaimed, “It’s alive!”, the audience knew something was not quite right with the conglomerations of limbs and organs stitched together into the wretched beast on the screen. While the Frankenstack may not appear as monstrous at first, the potential havoc it can wreak is not less terrifying. If you factor in the combination of internal on-premise and cloud solutions with the litany of third party solution providers and their own versions of Frankenstack, you are left with a problem of truly monstrous proportions.
Many organizations have legacy cases wrapped up in legacy systems and hardware that is challenging to access or spin back up. Whether it is hosted on a proprietary platform at a service provider, in the encrypted hardware graveyard, or entombed in an ancient server and software that is unwieldy, the Frankenstack poses a complex labyrinth of challenges. For example, the team may be unfamiliar with the various components, it may be incompatible with newer tools, and there is often significant cost associated with bringing the data back from the veritable dead. Any potential value is far outweighed by the cost in terms of time and money to spin the data back up.
Zombie software licenses
When I ran a global discovery program, one of the things that shocked me was the number of licenses that should have been dead and buried long ago but that the firm had to continue paying for because of legacy data or because the tool fulfilled some small function our main tech stack could not. This undying group of software licenses caused many a headache when budgeting and served minimal benefit to the program.
Scalability and functionality
From integration nightmares, to multiple logins, to wasting time and money to migrate data between legacy and newer systems, the Frankenstack is a major barrier to maximizing efficiency. Having to access multiple tools to move a data set through the ediscovery lifecycle means data security challenges, wasted time, and a lack of transparency in terms of program optimization.
Each disparate part stitched together into your Frankenstack monster amplifies your organization’s potential risk. Data on the move, like it is when shifting between these poorly integrated systems, is a major risk for both data security and integrity. Each requires its own upkeep and timely patching to mitigate risk of breach, which increases downtime and risk of human error. According to an IBM study, the average cost of a data breach last year was $3.86 million. And, a recent survey of 340 information security professionals found that 27% of organizations worldwide and 34% in Europe reported that they had been breached because of unpatched vulnerabilities.
As time passes, internal expertise on legacy tools wanes either from lack of use or attrition. This translates to reduced capability to effectively and defensibly engage with legacy tools and can result in human error with broad effects.
Hardware and software in a Frankenstack often do not play well together. This may manifest as challenges pushing data from one system to another, leading to unnecessary steps to a full data conversion and migration. It also translates into suboptimal visibility into the efficiencies of your program, as each system has its own reporting mechanisms.
The hardware grim reaper
Even the most cutting-edge hardware and software has a life cycle, and as you approach the end of it, the risk of system or hardware failure increases. This is amplified especially if and when a company reduces their support of a specific tool or if the solution is sold off as part of an M&A action. Likewise, hardware has a set time of effectiveness, and as you reach the terminal point, you have to decide whether the organization wants to invest in new hardware to host legacy data in a legacy platform in lieu of investing in newer cutting-edge solutions. The tradeoff is hard to justify.
What about the Frankencloud?
So what is this newest abomination? The Frankencloud is when a company deploys multiple cloud applications on different cloud platforms. Some companies claim that simply moving to the cloud remedies all that is scary and awful about the Frankenstack, but that is not necessarily the case. This latest technological monster is created by companies racing to adopt cloud applications without purpose-building solutions to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud. The companies stitch together disconnected technology solutions in an effort to say they are in the cloud, but each solution uses different tools for reporting, workflow, customization, and integration.
Many of the cloud providers in the market have simply lifted the same Frankenstack approach into the cloud using virtual machines with disparate software solutions in a virtual environment. As a result, the same scaling, interoperability, and cross-compatibility issues remain, and the cloud solution is not fully able to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
A less scary option
While Frankenstein’s monster may have been chased out of town by a herd of angry villagers wielding pitchforks and torches, the solution to slaying an ediscovery Frankenstack is far simpler. DISCO took a different approach from many of the Frankenstack and Frankencloud providers, forging an integrated technology stack in which the components are purpose-built to work together in a cloud-optimized way.
Rather than engaging with legacy tools, analytic tools, review platforms, and a processing engine to create an ediscovery Frankenstack, DISCO built a single integrated cloud-optimized solution. And, because DISCO hosts the full integrated suite in a dedicated environment within AWS, all of the maintenance and management of the software and infrastructure is DISCO’s responsibility instead of yours.
Disassembling your Frankenstack provides a number of benefits to your business:
Faster: Moving to an integrated technology solution for ediscovery that is built to handle the full life cycle of your ediscovery needs reduces the amount of time and resources wasted on managing all the component parts of a Frankenstack. Because all solutions are co-engineered to work in harmony, you no longer have latency of pushing data between disparate platforms.
System downtime and lag between updates and patches across all the various platforms is no longer an issue with DISCO continually updating and maintaining data security across the full ecosystem. No more latency of a processing tool pushing to review platform with data flowing between analytic solutions, and no more downtime while you have to patch each component part, update versions, or maintain and replace hardware. Add to this the dramatic impact of a tool built to reap all the computational power and speed of the cloud, and you have substantial speed increase.
Safer: Memorably, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster lamented, “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.” This is especially apt in the context of increased cyber risk posed by managing poorly integrated platforms and hardware in a discovery ecosystem. Managing all of various hardware and software maintenance and optimization needs of a Frankenstack is daunting.
Moving to an integrated and cloud-optimized approach means that maintenance of each component no longer falls on your already-spread-thin IT team, and your entire discovery solution is safer from a data integrity and cybersecurity standpoint. The patches and reduced speed to updates minimize the exposure to cyber breach. Seamless interoperability between the component parts and true integration reduces the exposure of data on the move — one of the most vulnerable points in the data life cycle.
Easier: Removing the need to push data between poorly integrated tools, in addition to taking away the strain of maintaining all of the hardware and software of a Frankenstack, makes it much easier to use a platform like DISCO. Seamless integration and the flow of data within a single secure ecosystem simplifies both the maintenance of the tool and engagement by the end user.
Operating in a single integrated ecosystem also makes it easier to monitor and optimize efficiency across the full ediscovery life cycle. Having timely updates run by the DISCO team as they are released, instead of waiting weeks or months for IT to install them, ensures you are constantly using the best and most efficient version of the solution.
Less Expensive: Relying on a solution provider like DISCO allows your program to scale as the business demands it without making a massive investment in terms of license increase and hardware which can run into the combined millions of capital investment for large users. Rather than paying for computational power from a licensing and hardware standpoint to support even your largest matters at all times, you can simply pay for the amount of computational power you require right now. Flexible and scalable cloud deployment helps you remain nimble without breaking the bank.
Better: Working with a solution provider that is innovating at the pace of the industry keeps your practice adaptable, and since you do not need to plan the budget for additional hardware or software in order to benefit from these new innovations, you are able to have a more nimble ediscovery program and to adapt as the market does.
For too long, the Frankenstack approach to ediscovery was accepted as the best option. Today, there are solutions that are far less frightful. Take advantage of the benefits of integrated cloud-optimized solutions to mitigate the painful challenges of piecemeal approach to ediscovery. Remorse need not extinguish hope, because there is a much better option for creating an ediscovery ecosystem today.