Google Unveils Mid-Market Search Appliance

Furthering its push into the corporate search market, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Monday unveiled its latest search appliance model, along with updates to its existing corporate search technology aimed at easing deployment of its search services in secure computing environments.

Following its entry into the corporate search market earlier this year with the Linux-based GB-1001 and GB-8008, Google unveiled its latest appliance, the GB-5005, designed as a mid-market product for organizations requiring dedicated search service of up to 3 million documents.

The GB-5005 is an integrated hardware/software product, containing five clustered servers that plug into existing corporate IT infrastructure. The appliance utilizes Google’s popular search technology and algorithms to catalog intranets and websites.

Corporate search technology, which has long been dominated by pioneers such as Verity, Autonimy, and Inktomi, has been picking up speed in recent months as companies continue to amass vast amounts of digital documentation.

“Information that was once held in file copies on hard copies is now being digitized and held in file servers and relational databases,” said Rob Lancaster, senior analyst for the Yankee Group. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to manage that information and find it.”

While data storage is becoming increasingly a no-brainer for corporations, categorization for deriving value from all the information is grabbing the attention of system administrators and CEOs alike.

“It’s pretty difficult to find information when you have millions of files in a system, so a good search engine is increasingly important,” said Lancaster.

Top Dogs Will Fall

While Lancaster believes Google’s corporate search offerings to be a generation behind those of its more mature competitors, Google has capitalized on its brand loyalty to win some major customers. The company has recently inked major deals with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Education, the California Department of Transportation, the state of Indiana, Medtronic and others.

Lancaster warns, however, that brand loyalty can only take you so far.

“Google grew to become extremely popular because the engine was extremely good and people told their friends about it,” said Lancaster. “Google is going to lose its edge in the consumer world eventually – everybody does – something else will come along and be the next big thing, and at that point Google is going to have to have a very robust enterprise search platform that can compete head-to-head in any engagement.”

Lancaster cites Google’s competitors’ superior flexibility and functionality as the major differentiation between offerings, although notes that Google’s ease-of-use has appeal to certain market segments.

In addition to the release of the GB-5005, Google also issued updates for its previous offerings. Among the improvements in software, is an adjustment that allows the GB-8008 to search up to 7 million documents from a single query, an increase of 75 percent over the previous software version.

The most significant change for corporations, however, is the addition of functionality for searching secure content. The appliance now enables users to search secure information protected by basic authentication or Microsoft NTLM, the authentication protocol used on networks that include systems running versions of Windows NT earlier than Windows 2000, and on stand-alone systems. All documents from protected web servers are kept within the physical appliance, and users performing searches only see documents to which they have access authorization in the search results.

Both the newly released GB 5005 and the top of the line GB-8008 have added new cataloging functionality for system administrators, allowing incremental updates that enable the administrator to create two layers of searchable information: A fast changing top layer for important documents, updated hourly, and a larger, base layer that can be updated every day.