Google extends enterprise search

Google Wednesday stepped up its interest in winning over corporate users with the introduction of features for its corporate search appliance that can crawl through data from business applications.

OneBox for Enterprise, which will ship later this month, taps into technology that Google has used for years on its consumer search engine that provides specialized results when users type in package tracking numbers, addresses or keywords such as “weather” and “define.” Google has nearly 60 such specialized search modules integrated into

Google also is launching the Google Enterprise Developer program and an API to encourage developers to write modules that will link applications with the OneBox search features.

Through integration with partners Cisco, Cognos, Employease, NetSuite, Oracle,, and SAS, users can now point the Google search engine at those back-end systems and return information at the top of their search results.

Google also has added support for crawling the Windows file system, and independent developers have added a module for Microsoft Exchange that returns user information such as phone and cell numbers and free/busy time on calendars from the Exchange directory.

“We are seeing a new strategy from Google that is overdue,” says Whit Andrews, a research vice president at Gartner. “This says, we are going to start behaving like an enterprise applications company that has APIs, has a vigorous reseller program, that recognizes our inability to do everything and which depends on partners.”

But Andrews says Google must also prove to corporate users that their enterprise play is not just a Trojan horse for the advertising model that earns the company 99 percent of its revenue.

Google’s Enterprise division is tiny, with approximately 100 employees, and software licensing represents only 1 percent of the company’s overall revenue, which was US$6.1 billion in 2005.

Some observers say evidence of Google’s growing interest in the enterprise market is its focus on serving the needs of large corporate customers, which has been a question mark in the past.

“They are improving security controls, scalability, expanding capacity for both documents and queries — and that is making them more and more relevant for large enterprise-scale applications,” says Matt Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research.

In terms of security, the OneBox search appliance supports authentication mechanisms that preserve access controls to the back-end applications it searches to ensure users see only the data they are authorized to access. Google has added to the Search Appliance support for Security Assertion Markup Language, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, and X.509 certificates. And Google has added an authentication API to go along with its authorization API.

Users with an existing single-sign-on deployment can tie that into the Google engine; however, users without such network capabilities will have to log on to each application before the Google appliance can search those systems.

“We see siloed information within companies, and we see search as a way to break that down,” says Dave Girouard, vice president of Google Enterprise.

So do others, such as Microsoft and IBM. Google will compete with Microsoft’s SharePoint Server, IBM’s WebSphere Portal along with other portal and content management vendors looking to ease discovery and access to information across corporate networks. Google also competes with business search engine UltraSeek.

OneBox for Enterprise also includes increased performance that allows up to 3 million documents on a single server and boosts the query speed to 25 per second, a fivefold increase over the previous version of its search software.

In addition to OneBox for Enterprise, Google also released a new version of the Google Mini Search Appliance that is half the previous size and weight. It includes new reporting features, file system crawling, and support for SNMP for integration with management systems. The performance also has been increased to 25 queries per second and it is localized into six languages.

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