Google brings universal search to Search Appliance

Google will upgrade its Search Appliance with native support for enterprise content management (ECM) systems like EMC's Documentum, IBM's FileNet, Open Text's LiveLink and Microsoft's SharePoint.

Support for those systems will be provided via "connector" modules included with this enterprise search device's Version 5.0 software, which existing customers will be able to download for free either this week or next week.

The modules were built on an open-source framework that is new in Version 5.0 and that can be used by customers and other vendors to create other native ECM connector modules for the Search Appliance.

This complements already existing native support for enterprise databases and enterprise applications in the Search Appliance, said Nitin Mangtani, lead product manager for search in the Google Enterprise division.

With the ECM framework and modules, Google is introducing in the Search Appliance the concept of universal search, which refers to a search engines's ability to merge items from a broad variety of data repositories in a single results list.

In the Search Appliance -- a computer with search engine software -- this will be manifested by its ability to return links to files and Web pages from intranets, on-premise and hosted business applications, corporate directories, public sites and, now, ECM systems.

Google, which generates most of its revenue from advertising delivered via its consumer-oriented search engines and a network of third-party Web sites, also makes "enterprise" products meant for use by organizations in workplaces.

The Search Appliance, which is one such enterprise product, can be used by organizations to index a wide variety of files and documents in their intranets and corporate servers, and make them searchable by authorized employees, clients and partners.

As such, the Search Appliance competes against other enterprise search products from companies like Autonomy Corp. PLC, Vivisimo Inc. and Fast Search & Transfer ASA.

In this market, the Search Appliance seems mostly used for simpler implementations focusing on a single data repository or file system, while complex projects often go to rivals like Autonomy, Fast and others, said Forrester Research analyst Matt Brown.

That said, by delivering significant enhancements in Version 5.0 at no extra charge, Google boosts its strategy for attracting customers with a product that is generally easier to use and install, as well as less expensive than its competitors, Brown said.

"Version 5.0 goes to Google's continued efforts to commoditize the search function in enterprises," Brown said.

Version 5.0 will also include security enhancements like support for Windows Integrated Authentication (WIA) and improved performance in its Security Assertion Markup Language-based API for authentication and authorization.

In addition to the upgrade, Google also plans to launch Google Enterprise Labs, a site where the company will provide "early access" to enterprise search innovations.

The Search Appliance starts at $30,000 for indexing up to 500,000 documents. It can index up to 30 million documents. Launched in 2002, the Search Appliance has a customer base of about 10,000 companies.

Google also sells a similar but less powerful device called Google Mini, which starts at $1,995 for 50,000 documents. The Mini tops out at 300,000 documents.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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