Attenex is not the only provider of heavy-duty processing and analysis software for chewing through very large amounts of electronic data, but the name has become a kind of shorthand for that function. As Hoover is to vacuum cleaners, so Attenex is to massive volumes of data in the e-Discovery world – not a bad analogy, in fact, given the aptitude of both for sucking up lots of stuff.
Although its “petrie dish” clustering visualisation is familiar – those purple bubbles on a black background in a green ring – I had never actually had the opportunity to see Attenex demonstrated, nor got to know any Attenex people. Chance remedied both these omissions last week – indeed, I began to feel I could go nowhere without bumping into someone from Attenex, like Donald Sutherland’s nemesis in Don’t Look Now but without the red coat.
I met Strategic Account Manager Vipin Duggal briefly at the IQPC conference in London in May, and we planned to link up. That was overtaken by FTI’s acquisition of Attenex shortly afterwards, and it was not until last week that I met him again, at the Legal Week Litigation Forum. Also there was Kathryn Hardie, Senior Managing Director, Global Channel Software Sales, FTI Technology. The following day, although I was unaware of this at the time, they saw me from the window of Starbucks near Smithfield – so much for the anonymity of the big city – and ten minutes later we found ourselves at adjacent tables at a restaurant, where I was lunching with Aaref Hilaly and Andy Byrne of Clearwell.
A few hours later, at the party given by Ernst & Young’s Forensic Technology and Discovery Services, there they were again, and here I had an opportunity to see Attenex Patterns Document Mapper, Attenex’s concept review platform. The idea is easier to understand when seen rather than described, but the function on display was the clustering tool. Ideally, you have ditched the junk – the duplicates and the patently irrelevant – by the time you get to this bit, using Attenex Patterns Workbench. What you see in Document Mapper are clusters representing documents which have been grouped together in islands of varying density because of some degree of commonality between them derived from the nouns, noun phrases or concepts. Words around the edge identify some of the terms which underlie the application’s decision to group them together, and some elements of the individual documents can be seen. You can zoom in or out and pick on specific documents, which can be sampled with a view to making a block decision about the cluster.
Although it would be easier to understand if the subject-matter was a collection with which you are familiar, the power of this kind of conceptual clustering lies in the fact that you do not need to know much, if anything, about the document population to start drawing conclusions about parts of it.
My assumption was that you need some pretty big volumes both for the clustering algorithms to operate over properly and to warrant this kind of fire-power. I gather, though, that the majority of e-discovery cases for which Attenex is used involve under 25 gigabytes.
You might like to look at the Lovells case study which describes how 35 gigabytes – 2 million pages – of e-mail data was reduced to manageable proportions within a $1 million budget and a three month deadline. The case study describes how the 2 million documents were refined down to 11,000 thought worthy of review, and describes in some detail how the clustering technology was used.
The result, in that case, was put into Ringtail which, like Attenex, is part of FTI Consulting’s stable – as I noted in my post about the acquisition, buying Attenex put FTI Consulting in a position to claim the full spread of the EDRM stages. Attenex and Ringtail had been working together before the acquisition to develop connectors which allow seamless transfer of data between the two products. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that the use of a particular processing tool does not commit you to any specific review application. You do not have to be a Ringtail user to make use of Attenex.
Attenex reaches its market via Service Provider Partners like Ernst & Young’s Forensic Technology and Discovery Services and KPMG Forensic Technology Services.