Twenty years ago, Elastic CEO Shay Banon built a search engine for his wife’s recipes while she attended cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu. Little did he know that he was cooking up a company that would rise faster than souffle.

Search doesn’t end with Google. Elastic is a search company with its code housed in public repositories like GitHub, as part of its commitment to an open development process.

GovInsider looks at why Elastic decided to make its code open, and how their tech helps companies search and secure their data.

Transparent and resilient

Elasticsearch didn’t become what it is today by hiding away until the code was perfect. Elastic has offered free and open products since day one, enabling developers to try their products before deciding to adopt the full version.

There are three advantages to open development. First, it builds the resilience and reliance of the software. As the old cybersecurity maxim Linus’ Law goes: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”

As more downloads occur, more people can scrutinise the code and notice errors that may have gone unnoticed before. This establishes resilience and reliance as users test, troubleshoot and evolve the code across different use cases.

Next, the code is often more secure because it has been thoroughly tested and reviewed by the community, compared to exclusive codes which can have security vulnerabilities that remain undiscovered.

Users will also know how the software will collect and use data, fostering a culture of transparency. This has become rare as data collection by huge closed-book tech companies have sparked privacy concerns from governments and citizens alike. To stand out as a cybersecurity vendor, being transparent about ‘how’ and ‘what’ the product is doing is a great start.

Unlock the power of data

In today’s data-driven economy, effective search and filtering are key. Elastic recommends centralising data to make it easier to comb through. Trying to search data across all of its multiple different sources would be time consuming and frustrating.

Not only should data be easy to filter through – being able to analyse it helps organisations prepare for future risks and challenges. Data can uncover patterns that may be early signals of change or correct misunderstandings of trends that may not happen.

The United States Public Service Credit Union, with the help of Elastic technology, was able to use data analytics to predict financial fraud before it even occurs. Machine learning monitors activity before a credit card is swiped. If customer behaviour falls out of that norm, their teams could be alerted to stop the fraud in its tracks.

The credit union was able to block US$35 million in fraudulent activity in just 18 months after using Elastic technology. It also implemented Kibana, Elastic’s data visualisation tool, and Elastic Maps to be notified of pending natural disasters. This enabled them to adjust their local customer support accordingly so that members can still access their money and credit in times of crisis.

Offering security solutions

While security analytics has been embedded in their services for a long time, Elastic broadened their security tools in 2019.

Organisations can use Elastic to aggregate disparate sources of data and gain a holistic view of their environment. Analysts can choose to visualise data in pie charts or graphs, which makes it easy to spot anomalies, then use Elasticsearch to locate that specific dataset.

Though Elastic began from humble beginnings, its foundation as an open source company has brought it a long way. Even as it expands, Elastic has promised to remain free and open. It won’t always be easy, but it remains the best option to help the tech-building community create successful tools.

This article was updated on 5 April 2022 to reflect Elastic’s transition to a free and open company.