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RealTime IT News

Google Shrinks Enterprise Search

Google aims to put enterprise search into the servers of small and medium-sized businesses with the release of a $5,000 appliance.

The Google Mini is now available, along with technical enhancements to the search product that will be available in both the regular and Mini appliances.

"We're beginning to offer search to a whole new type of customer, while going deeper and deeper into large corporations," said Dave Girouard, general manager of Google Enterprise, which claims around 800 customers.

In both the Mini and original versions, Google added a native connection to enterprise databases. In prior editions, only Web-enabled information could be queried.

"This is important, because so much information in the corporation resides in structured databases," Girouard said. The appliance connects with Oracle's database, IBM's db2, Microsoft's SQL, the open-source mySQL and Sybase's database.

To speed indexing, in addition to the crawler, Google added a feeder system that can be configured to automatically add information from content management or business applications to the index.

"It's a way to link to a lot of content in proprietary systems we may not have knowledge of. Some of the content, the crawler would never have found; some, it would have found, but it's now more timely and automated," Girouard said.

Google also added a security API that lets the enterprise use its own system security and log-on processes and configure Google to follow the access rules.

The search product was already available in 28 languages; now, the administration has been localized in French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese.

Google's news follows a spate of announcements that have moved the search wars from consumer desktop search to the potentially lucrative enterprise search arena.

In December 2004, IBM announced OmniFind, an enterprise search engine for file systems, content repositories, databases, collaboration systems, applications and intranets that integrates with portal and content management systems.

OmniFind, to be included IBM's DB2 Information Integrator middleware, is part of IBM's grand plan for unstructured information management architecture, a technology approach for culling the underlying meaning from stored data regardless of where it lies in a computer system.

The Google Enterprise Search Appliance can't compete with such heavy-duty enterprise-class search applications, said Forrester Research analyst Laura Ramos, who had been briefed on the announcement. "They are best suited for small businesses or applications like searching your own Web site," she said. "When it comes to true enterprise level needs -- high-end security, integration among multiple repositories, being able to get to file system directly -- they're not there yet."

Rival Yahoo is moving into enterprise search from a different direction. Last month, it partnered with Verity to offer Verity Enterprise Web Search. The application, which is free for companies using Verity K2 Enterprise and Verity Ultraseek, lets users search internal repositories and the Web with a single query.

Search results from internal content repositories and the Web can be merged and ranked for relevance, and Web-based content can optionally be dynamically classified into existing corporate taxonomies. Optional plug-ins provide access to external, subscription-based information providers.

While Verity licenses its search software to customers, it will receive a share of the ad revenue generated by Yahoo during Web searches, according to news reports. Yahoo executives were not available by press time.

Also on Thursday, MondoSoft released Web Service Search Kit, an incremental enhancement to its MondoSearch enterprise search product. The kit is designed to make it easy for developers to create a unified search index across multiple data sources, programming languages and software applications.

The Web Service Search Kit lets users of locally installed or hosted MondoSearch build customized search pages and uses of search, independent of platforms, environments and server locations. The kit can be accessed by and deployed with any language that supports XML and SOAP .

"You were able to do this before with MondoSoft, but programming was required. This is easier and more straightforward to do this level of integration," said Matt Nawrocki, MondoSoft vice president of sales and operations for the Americas.

MondoSoft pricing starts at $10,000 for the packaged version and $5,000 per year for the hosted search service. While the company also offers a plug-and-play version with simple implementation, "This allows you to do much more customization than is available in the [standard] Google Search Appliance," Nawrocki said.

Of course, the Google Mini is designed precisely for those companies that don't have developers or search administrators on staff.

"The low end of the enterprise search market is traditionally underserved," said Forrester's Ramos. "There's potentially a huge market for the Mini, because the price is so very attractive, and the ease of use is so simple."

Forrester estimates that Verity has a run rate of about $150 million a year, while Google makes around $40 million a year on enterprise search. That's a drop in the bucket of Google's $805.9 million revenue for its first reported quarter, ending Sept. 30, 2004.

"Maybe they shouldn't bother to try to grow into the hard-core enterprise space," Ramos said. "Maybe this is their forte. There's a lot of SMB fruit to be picked. Why get on that tall, wiggly ladder called enterprise search, when the SMB fruits are hanging low on the tree?"