Google isn’t waiting for Microsoft to scramble to improve its Fast enterprise search software.
Google has retooled the architecture of its GSA (Google Search Appliance), making hardware and software changes that enable the enterprise search appliance to index as many as 10 million documents in one box.
This is crucial at a time when businesses are increasingly turning to enterprise search as a means to retrieve their Web-based documents, another example of how corporations are using the Internet to improve their business processes.
Previously, a single GSA could index only two million documents and the company would sell them in five-nose clusters to serve 10 million documents.
This isn’t chump change, but Google’s plan is to make GSA the most powerful, all-encompassing enterprise search server in the world and the first choice over Microsoft and products from Vivisimo, Endeca and Autonomy.
Most enterprise search implementations require many front-end Web servers, index servers and database servers to effectively run. But, as Matt Glotzbach, product management director of enterprise for Google, told me, corporate content continues to grow at an exponential rate.
The content glut challenges hardware and software costs because increased content loads call for more servers and software, along with the additional personnel to manage and configure them.
This pinch makes it challenging for businesses to maintain their investment. Google itself has felt this pressure to keep customers happy, which is why the more expansive GSA should assuage these growth pains.
By indexing more files on an appliance, Google is risking selling fewer boxes at $30,000 a pop. The company has a couple things going for it to support this strategy.
One, given the content explosion (thank you, video), there is an opportunity to take GSA upstream into larger enterprises that want to index billions of files, which would require them to deploy more servers from Google.
Two, Google’s search advertising business makes billions of dollars a year. Google’s Enterprise group can afford the risk until a bear market or a rival proves otherwise.
Indeed, the new GSA now follows Google’s Universal Search template for the company’s consumer search service. This means GSA lets workers search text, video and blog posts in Web servers, portals, file shares, databases.
GSAs New Features
“In a nutshell, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned on the consumer side in terms of running really large-scale search systems and packaged them in our enterprise search product,” Glotzbach said.
Unlike the consumer search however, GSA also sifts through the major content repositories, including Microsoft SharePoint, EMC Documentum, IBM’s Filenet and LiveLink.
The new GSA boasts a number of other new features, not all of which will be useful for every business using it.
For example, a new advanced biasing feature will let administrators favor results based on metadata in addition to biasing based on source, URL or date. For example, this would allow admins to promote log files over human resource papers.
Not every business craves this kind of granularity, but like the 353 features on that new digital camera, they’re there if you need them.
The software also has new departmental customization features that allow administrators to tailor search results for, say, marketing departments, or human resources teams. This would be particularly useful in the company I work for, which is split into editorial, sales and human resources groups, to name a few.
Just as with the Google.com consumer search, employees can now receive alerts from Google for topics and documents of interest based on keywords and frequency.
Some business managers may want to see what files are receiving the most or least attention during searches. GSA now renders advanced search analytics for every query, which will reveal whether users are clicking on sponsored links, making their own search queries or using OneBox modules.
This feature just graduated from Google’s Enterprise Labs.
Finally, GSA also now natively supports Kerberos to provide single authentication for Microsoft Windows systems, SharePoint, and non Windows-based content systems.
The new GSA is available now starting at $30,000 per server with capacities that serve from 500,000 to 30 million documents. Existing customers get the new software features free.
Existing customers who want to upgrade to the new GSA box will have to either do an early renewal with Google and purchase a new two-year service plan, or pay a small upgrade fee for the new appliance. Google isn’t saying what that fee is.