Google hopes upgraded search appliance woos the enterprise

Update allows multiple Google appliances to join forces to search through billions of docs

Google Inc. today released an updated Google Search Appliance that aims to provide corporate users with a better way to search their company's internal data coffers.

Google Search Appliance (GSA) 6.0, which is available today, adds 15 new features to those of its predecessor, GSA 5.2, according to Cyrus Mystry, product manager of Google's GSA business. For instance, the upgraded appliance can now connect multiple Google appliances together, which allows users to quickly search billions of corporate documents, Google noted.

"I think what we're seeing is a greater understanding of the value of search in the enterprise," said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Boston-based Nucleus Research Inc. "There are an awful lot of companies realizing they have too many haystacks and too many people searching in those haystacks getting poor results. They need a meaningful way to pull all their content together and be able to search and get meaningful results."

Hadley Reynolds, an analyst at IDC, said the most important update is the ability to work with other Google Search Appliances in the enterprise.

A big problem for corporations using GSA to date has been the fact that appliances working in different departments haven't been able to work together. Workers in one department have not been able to extend their searches into other parts of the company.

"I think the main angle of attack, so to speak, with this one is mostly related to the criticisms that the appliance has been relatively inflexible, in terms of it being able to scale within the company and its ability to talk with other boxes," said Reynolds. "One of the real advantages of the new release is that Google has put a lot of work into removing those barriers. The major announcement is around how it scales to billions of documents, but an offshoot of that work has been that they've been able to address this issue of multiple appliances in a single company."

And while getting different appliances to work together may sound to some users like an easy fix, Reynolds called it a complicated engineering task.

"I think some of the larger customer who have larger installations will be relieved that they now have this new flexibility," he added. "Google has some really very large implementations, particularly in the government, so they will be very happy with the removal of this limitation."

Another challenge for Google is changing its image as mostly a consumer business to one that also targets the enterprise, Wettemann noted.

"Google is still working to gain recognition for the enterprise search user. The more they have references like NASA, they more they'll be able to do that," she said. "Right now, any little thing I can do to make my end users be more productive is a valuable thing. If I can enable my people, which is my biggest investment, to be more productive, that's a good investment to be making."

At the same tme Google has been fending off rivals like Microsoft Corp. and newcomers like WolframAlpha, it has been busy adding a phalanx of new products and services in recent months. For example, Google last week released to developers an early version of a collaboration and communication tool - dubbed Wave -- that consolidates features from e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, wikis, multimedia management and document sharing.

And earlier last month, Google unveiled a list of new search technologies aimed at helping users 'slice and dice' their Google search results, along with a new tool to help them cull information instead of Web pages. One of the new features, called Search Options, is a collection of tools designed to let users better manipulate search results. At the same time, the company previewed a tool called Google Squared, which doesn't pull up Web pages that hold information about the search query. Instead, it pulls up information from different sites and presents it in an organized manner.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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