Google One-Ups Intranet Search

Integration with business apps could trigger change in enterprise search market

April 20, 2006

4 Min Read
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Google today unveiled the latest version of its Search Appliance, and it's integrated the rackable hardware units with specific business intelligence applications -- such as sales force automation, customer resource management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and business intelligence packages. (See Google Intros OneBox.)

The result is something called Google OneBox Enterprise, comprising a basic Search Appliance and software modules that support a range of applications. So far, Google has enlisted Cisco, Cognos, Employease, Oracle,, Netsuite, and SAS to integrate their business applications with the Search Appliance -- and execs promise more. It costs nothing, they say, for developers to get the API and support tools to create their own modules on the Web.

The idea behind OneBox is to offer a simple way for IT pros to offer Intranet searches to their in-house constituents. Starting at the end of this month, Google says, customers will be able to buy a Search Appliance, load OneBox modules from the Web onto it at no extra cost, and provide searches across multiple business intelligence applications for Intranet users -- via the same interface Google uses throughout its products.

At least one expert insists the significance of the announcement can't be downplayed. "Google has just put down a high trump card and is getting ready to take the pile in the enterprise integration space, where search is the interface," says Stephen E. Arnold, an independent technology and financial analyst and expert in enterprise search.

Up to now, Arnold notes, it's been possible to set up Intranet data searches involving corporate applications such as those from Cognos, Oracle, or SAS, but it's taken extensive hands-on integration. Now, he says, third-party resellers and integrators can offer IT pros a box that eliminates the high, recurring costs of custom programming.Key to Google OneBox Enterprise is the ability to generate results from multiple business sources in a single, simple search. According to Dave Girouard, Google VP and general manager of Google Enterprise, employees will be able to enter a name or search term and pull up data from a range of enterprise applications.

An employee could get sales force stats, accounting info, and details from the corporate travel center in a single set of results, for instance.

Girouard says the new Google Search Appliance and OneBox for Enterprise will be configurable in the same way the vendor's earlier search appliances have been -- via a forms-based interface. This allows administrators to point to specific applications, tweak search criteria, and even seal off data they don't want to be included in Intranet searches.

Google, whose wares have reportedly been faulted for lax security, claims to have added LDAP and SAML interfaces to its new Search Appliance in an effort to bulk up security. Still, it looks like the main security functions will remain with the hosts of the Intranet apps.

Girouard says the new Google Search Appliance and OneBox are in beta test and set to ship by the end of the month. No users were immediately available to comment, though Google has a range of existing Search Appliance customers, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Kaiser Permanente, National Semiconductor, Nextel, PBS, the World Bank, and Xerox.Pricing for the the OneBox modules is free, but the Search Appliance will run into some dough. A basic 2U server, the GB-1001, starts at $30,000 for a model that searches up to 500,000 documents at a rate of 25 queries per second. Two larger appliances, the GB-5005 and GB-8008, cost much more (top-end pricing can start at $600,000), but they support RAID disk drive failover and offer considerably larger capacities.

None of the Search Appliances offer SAN connectivity at present; all are designed as front-end, Ethernet-linked boxes.

It is too soon to gauge the impact of Google's move on the market. But as the market leader in search engines, Google is in a good position to chomp into a new segment. Stephen Arnold believes it will take competitors a multimonth, multimillion-dollar effort to catch up.

The question remains, Who are the competitors? There are a range of firms, including Index Engines, Kazeon, and StoredIQ, providing software that performs enterprise data searches on NAS or SAN gear. (See In Search of... Enterprise Search.) Others, like Verity and FAST, offer Intranet search software not tied to SANs.

One analyst says the search capability isn't the point. "From a search technology standpoint, Google's not really at a competitive advantage," writes analyst Brad O'Neil of the Taneja Group in an email today. "What's unique here is their integration-oriented business model combined with their market leverage. They have a proven ability to open up their search interface repeatedly through APIs so that anyone can come leverage it. In the same way Microsoft can afford to seed markets and farm them, Google can too."Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Index Engines Inc.

  • Kazeon Inc.

  • StoredIQ Corp.

  • Verity Inc.

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