Google, BearingPoint team to support enterprise search

Google Tuesday entered into its first partnership with a major professional services firm in hopes of attracting vertical industries to its search appliance with support and customization services.

Google, known for its consumer search and other online services, is aligning with BearingPoint, a systems integrator, which will launch a new practice centered on search using its own software platform and Google's APIs for integrating the Google Search Appliance with diverse corporate data stores.

Google, which is trying to prove it has what it takes to be an enterprise software provider, currently has 20 smaller system integrator and professional services companies in the U.S. and another 14 in Europe that are part of its Google Enterprise Professional Program, which was established last September to help users deploy the Google Search Appliance.

Enterprise search is becoming a hot topic with research firm IDC noting in a recent report that both consumers and enterprise users alike have trouble locating information. Google, which dominates the consumer end of search, is pushing deeper into an enterprise market that has established enterprise platform players that offer a broad spectrum of search functionality along with gateways or connectors to third-party applications including Verity, Autonomy, Endeca, Fast Search & Transfer and Convera.

BearingPoint is stepping in to provide what Google doesn't have to take on those players. It is the largest of the services firms to hook up with Google and will focus on companies in pharmaceuticals, banking, brokerage, high-tech and aerospace.

"The idea is we sell a very general purpose platform for search," says Dave Girouard, general manager for Google enterprise. "The needs within different vertical industries and the different types of information sources they need to access vary dramatically. You need to be pretty deep into those industries to have hands-on knowledge of all those data sources. BearingPoint will scope how those companies can best use search and implement a customized version of Google search that works with their business."

BearingPoint plans to focus on customizing and extending search to specific industry platforms such as enterprise content management systems; building in access control and authentication integration with corporate identity management systems, and developing interfaces for specific deployments such as call centers or research labs.

"We have a search extension platform that we are using to develop the extension software, adapters and plug-ins that go with the Google appliance," says Chris Weitz, managing director of BearingPoint. "The software platform is external to the Google appliance and allows for this extra layer of customization."

Weitz, who said the company has yet to give a specific name to the platform, runs off a Linux or Solaris box and includes software that talks to the Google Search Appliance. The BearingPoint platform supports XML-based feeds from specific third-party systems and aggregates information from both structured and unstructured data stores.

"The idea here is that there are enterprise applications that are enormous and you do not want to crawl and index of the entire thing," says Weitz. "Rather than open a floodgate, you need some intelligence that applies some logic or filtering or targeting to the data source so that you can get what you need without overwhelming the search engine."

Weitz said the software gateway is but one of many technologies that will result from BearingPoint's efforts to provide customized search services.

He would not discuss pricing, but says the company plans a significant training program and ramp up within both its domestic and global offices.

Research firm Gartner says that a large company undertaking an enterprise search project should be prepared to set aside an average of US$250,000, but that projects can range form US$10,000 to US$1 million.

"We are trying to scale the economics of this to match the Google economic model where it does not cost a great deal of money to get started, it is flexible, there is an easy point of entry, it is not tremendously expensive to get off the ground and it has value right away. That is different from the classic consulting model," Weitz says.

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