Google's enterprise search device grows up

Google is launching a new version of its Search Appliance that can index many more files than the current model.

Google is releasing a newly architected version of its Search Appliance enterprise search device that can index more than three times as many documents as the current model.

The new Search Appliance, model GB-7007, can index up to 10 million documents, up from the 3 million maximum capacity of the existing product, model GB-1001.

However, Google will continue to sell the GB-1001, since it can be clustered in configurations of either five or eight units, providing maximum capacity for up to 10 million or 30 million documents, respectively. The new GB-7007 can't be clustered.

Those interested in purchasing the new Search Appliance can place orders already, but Google will begin to deliver the products next month.

Google sells the Search Appliance as a hardware box loaded with enterprise search software designed to let companies index and retrieve the data in their corporate systems, such as applications, document management tools, databases, Web servers, files and the like.

The enterprise search market has traditionally been populated by sophisticated products that tend to be costly, difficult to implement for IT departments and complicated for end-users to master. The Search Appliance is considered a low- to mid-range product that stands out for its simple installation and maintenance, and for being comparatively less expensive.

Since introducing the Search Appliance in 2002, Google's strategy has been to attract the many companies that have held off on implementing an enterprise search system because of price and complexity.

With this new GB-7007 model, Google extends that strategy by removing the need to cluster the Search Appliance unless a company needs to index more than 10 million documents, said Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"It makes enterprise search simpler for more customers," he said. "The Search Appliance offers an easy, plug-and-play solution that brings a lot of benefits."

There are a variety of options for enterprise search from players including Autonomy and Fast Search & Transfer, which Microsoft recently acquired, so IT managers need to make a clear assessment of their needs in order to find the right product, Babineau said.

For example, does the company want enterprise search for business intelligence, e-discovery or for making corporate information generally more easily available? IT managers also need to consider where the information to be indexed resides. In addition, they must determine available resources the IT department can put into implementation and maintenance, he said.

At this point, the Search Appliance continues to be a very attractive alternative for companies that are taking their first plunge into enterprise search, he said. Its simpler use and lower cost reduce the risk for IT managers, while giving their companies a chance to explore and discover the benefits enterprise search can bring them, Babineau said.

In addition to its expanded indexing capacity, the GB-7007 lets IT managers affect more granularly how search queries are resolved, a feature Google calls "biasing." For example, administrators now can bias search results based on metadata attributes of a file, such as its author.

Also, the GB-7007 lets administrators tailor results based on types of users, so that queries from marketing employees and engineers are resolved differently, for example. The product now also generates alerts for users who want to be notified of new or modified documents that contain certain terms.

Usage stats are now also more detailed, giving administrators additional details about the terms users are searching for, the results they are clicking on and the like. In security, the product now has native support for the Kerberos authentication protocol.

Companies that have stand-alone or clustered GB-1001 Search Appliances can take advantage of the software improvements in the GB-7007 by downloading the software upgrade for free, said Nitin Mangtani, Google's lead product manager of enterprise search.

He declined to provide pricing information for the product. The GB-1001 starts at US$30,000 for a 500,000-document capacity, offered as a two-year license that includes support, hardware replacement coverage and software updates.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service

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