Google Ferrets Out Enterprise Potential

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-10-21
 
 
 

Google Ferrets Out Enterprise Potential


Enterprise customers who are turning to Google for Web searches can expect Google to be turning to them this year.

Fresh from its $1.7 billion public offering, Google Inc. plans to tackle the enterprise by expanding the features in the Google Search Appliance and hiring more enterprise-focused engineers and sales and marketing employees, Dave Girouard, the companys enterprise general manager, said in a recent interview with eWEEK.com.

As part of the push, Google on Tuesday launched the search appliance overseas for the United Kingdom and Europe and said organizations such as the British Library and the United Nations are using the product.

"Theres a serious search problem in the enterprise that has yet to be solved, and we think we probably have the best chance to solve that problem," Girouard said.

Google has offered its search appliance since 2002 as a way for companies, universities and organizations to use its Web search technology for indexing and finding documents on their own Web sites and intranets. In June, Google unveiled its first major update of the appliance, quintupling the indexing capacity, adding a continuous crawl and speeding query performance.

Click here to read more about Googles earlier enterprise expansion.

So far, though, the appliance has remained relegated to Web-enabled data sitting on Web servers. That is expected to change over the course of the next year as Google looks to dig deeper into enterprise data, Girouard said.

"Our goal over the next year is to have the broadest reach of content in terms of content we can index in the search, and provide unified, simple search to all of the content in a given company," Girouard said. "Today, a lot of that content is siloed and is not accessible."

While Girouard wouldnt provide details on what Google would next support for the enterprise, he did point to data from business applications such as CRM (customer relationship management), enterprise databases, file servers and PC desktops as possibilities. The appliance already supports about 250 popular file types.

Google earlier this month added some desktop integration into the appliance. It announced an updated Google Deskbar that supports the appliance, so users can conduct internal searches through a desktop query box.

The Mountain View, Calif., company last week unveiled a consumer product for searching files, e-mails, chat sessions and Web history on hard drives and combining it with its Web search. Officials have yet to say how or if Google Desktop Search would be built into its enterprise search.

Compared with its Web search efforts, the enterprise remains a small part of Googles business. In 2003, revenue from licensing and other non-advertising sources, largely from the appliance, accounted for about 5 percent of Googles $961.9 million in revenue, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Next Page: The hurdle of history.

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."

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