Best Products: Information management

Winning company: Google

Winning product: Google search appliance

In what used to be a category strictly applied to storage gear, we now include new and interesting products that can help enterprises navigate data sitting on storage gear. The Google Search Appliance - our winner in this newly designated Information Management category - is a case in point.

Our test showed that Google has successfully packaged its popular Internet search technology into an easy-to-use search engine for corporate intranets and public-facing business sites. However, the new enterprise-focused Google Search Appliance could use a bit of polish to make it more appealing to veteran network professionals.

Network World Lab Alliance partner Thomas Powell gave the search tool 4.35 out of 5 points, saying the appliance is easy to configure and maintain. He also liked it because of the underlying, highly accurate, crawler-driven engine. The crawler is capable of indexing 220 types of content. "We saw no limitation in the crawler and found that the device tended to discover files that we were not aware of in some test data sets," Powell notes.


Information Management finalists   

Since we tested the appliance last summer, Google released updated versions of the box focused on performance and scalability. All appliance models received enhancements in crawl speed, processing and query volumes, while the clustered models (specifically the GB-5005 and GB-8008) also were upgraded to support greater document capacities.

Google says it will roll out another software upgrade later this year aimed at improving the user experience. The upgrade should improve search quality and speed, increase the types of searchable content, and boost the types of authentication and authorization systems with which the appliance can interoperate, the company says.

Google's Enterprise division experienced strong market growth last year, amassing about 50 new customer installations. Among corporate users are the city of Toronto, in Canada; DuPont, ING, Ingersoll Rand and the Ministry of Defense in the United Kingdom.

In terms of corporate maneuverings, the company in September launched the Google Enterprise Professional program, a channel of system integrators, consultants and independent software vendors offering products and services that work on top of the Google Search Appliances. In October, Google hired Vint Cerf - widely recognized as "the father of the Internet" - as chief Internet evangelist.

FUTURE TESTS: We will continue our expansion of this category with comparative tests of enterprise search engines and e-mail archiving products. In addition, on tap are tests of discovery, inventory and storage device-management products, information life-cycle management wares, and local and remote software replication software.

PRODUCT MASTERMIND:, senior product manager, Google Enterprise

Matthew Glotzbach

Job duties: Oversees the Google Enterprise product management and marketing team; handles the overall product vision and ongoing development road map of the Google Search Appliance.

Favorite feature: “The search user experience. As a user of the Google Search Appliance, I can go to a simple, clean interface, type in a few keywords, and in less than a second get back relevant, secure search results. I get an experience just like Google provides me on the Internet, including spelling correction, cached pages and dynamic snippets.”

 
USER TAKE: senior Web developer, PLATO Learning, in Bloomington, Minn.

Greg Rhodes,

Deployment: Launched Google search on www.plato.com in September 2005; since then, integrated the search capability into the customer support Web site and the intranet.

Favorite feature: “The built-in relevancy ranking and the server’s flexibility. The relevancy ranking is unparalleled in the industry. As for flexibility, we are able to use a single box to deliver search results to three different sites, with three different sets of documents. I was able to customize the search results to be truly seamless with each of the sites. In addition, we were able to deliver public results on two of the sites, while maintaining the security of the private documents on our intranet.”

Business benefits: “The largest benefit is the impact it’s made on our intranet. With nearly 20,000 documents, findability of information was a huge problem for us, and our previous search engine just wasn’t helping. But now, employees can usually find what they are looking for through the search engine. The second most significant benefit that we’ve experienced is with our customer support Web site. Finally, we are able to integrate Web page content, PDF documents and PeopleSoft-driven Knowledge Base data into a single search engine with advanced filtering capabilities.”

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