Hurdle of History
But Girouard said the enterprise group is profitable and is growing in importance. It even includes its own research and development team. Working alongside other Google engineers, the team solves enterprise problems such as improving result relevancy for indexes that are smaller than the Web and where link-structure analysis doesnt apply. "My view is search in the enterprise is absolutely different than it is on the Web," Girouard said. "The content is different, its in different locations, and the needs of the customers are different. Having said that, we also believe theres a lot of synergy in what we learn about search from the World Wide Web." Googles enterprise competitors have been quick to dismiss the company as a major player in the corporate market. They say Googles appliance approach doesnt provide the flexibility enterprises need to tweak relevancy and draw results from a wide range of data repositories.Competitors include vendors focused on enterprise search such as Verity Inc., FAST Search & Transfer ASA, Autonomy Corp. and Endeca Technologies Inc.But the enterprise search market is a multifaceted one, and Googles appliance approach does work well for SMBs (small and midsized businesses) that want a fast and less expensive way of building search into external and internal Web sites, said Susan Feldman, a research vice president at market researcher IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "The advantage is that you can get going and dont need people that know anything about search," she said of Googles appliance. "You just plug it in and start indexing, but the disadvantage is you dont have control." Search implementations from enterprise vendors can average around $250,000, Feldman said. The Google Search Appliance starts at $32,000, though it can reach $175,000 for a 1.5 million-document index. She said she expects Google to be a viable player, given the growing need for search within organizations walls. Feldman estimates that the inability to find information costs a 1,000-person organization $6 million a year and that about half of all searches do not yield the right results. Enterprise search could prove lucrative to Google, which says it already has a few hundred customers. IDC predicts that the enterprise search market will grow to $2.3 billion in revenue by 2008 from $613.2 million in 2003. One potential hurdle in Googles way is history. A slew of other Web companies have tried and failed to enter the enterprise market. Archrival Yahoo Inc., for example, ditched its enterprise division last year and in June dropped its business-focused instant messaging service and client. Googles commitment to tackling the information-finding problems in the enterprise reaches to the top with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Girouard said. "We have to keep delivering more functions, more capabilities, and we really have to show that were serious about the enterprise," Girouard said. "There are plenty of reasons to say, yeah, theres a graveyard of consumer-oriented companies that tried to make it in the enterprise. But really its about commitment and execution and having capabilities to bring to the enterprise." Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.