Google today took the wraps off of more than 10 new features for its Google Search Appliance aimed at the enterprise, including better SharePoint integration. Perhaps the coolest feature is the Self-learning Scorer, which lets the device fine-tune and improve itself.
Note the timing of this news. Microsoft's sold-out SharePoint conference is happening in Las Vegas this week and is causing a stir as Microsoft announced two versions of SharePoint integrated with its high-end FAST search engine. It bought FAST in January 2008 for technology such as contextual searching. (Microsoft says FAST scales bigger than the GSA.) But that's not all, Microsoft plans two cloud SharePoint editions, and a host of others. (It announced eight new SharePoint 2010 editions in all). Microsoft also expects to charge a lot for the document sharing platform when adding up the license fees for servers and clients. SharePoint is Microsoft's fastest growing product of all time, in part because Microsoft bundled a basic, freebie SharePoint server in with Windows Server.
But Google will tell you that the GSA does a better job of search, and can be layered on top of SharePoint sites as well. Indeed, part of today's announcement is that the SharePoint connector it released a few months ago is now being bundled into the device out of the box. (You used to have download the connector from the Enterprise Labs site.) The native integration for SharePoint could make searching SharePoint content 10 times faster, Google says. The GSA also gained a connector to Lotus Notes available by downloading it from its Enterprise Labs site.
The GSA certainly makes search easy for an enterprise. It doesn't require an admin to build complex meta data, taxonomies, keywords and the like. The software simply scans the documents and uses those magic Google algorithms to figure out what the document is about.
The new Self-Learning Scorer analyzes employee clicks and behavior and adjusts results up or down depending on the links employees click on. It uses this info to fine-tune the relevancy results. The Google Enterprise blog puts it this way, "Most enterprise search engines do three things: crawl, index and serve. With the new Self-learning Scorer, we're adding a new step to the mix: analysis."
Google is also expanding the device's support for file shares and databases, so organizations can connect to any file share or database in any format.
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