Google pumps up search appliance

Google Inc. stepped up its enterprise search proposition on Monday with the introduction of a new hardware appliance designed for high priority, heavy traffic environments.

The GB-5005 is a cluster of five of Google's previously released GB-1001 appliances, extending the search capabilities to 3 million documents and 150 queries per minute, officials said. The GB-1001 and the higher powered GB-8008 search appliances were rolled out in February.

"If you need something [for] high traffic and high uptime requirements, [the GB-5005] is designed for that. Everything is pre-clustered and load-balanced, and we make it easy in an appliance," said John Piscitello, product manager at Google, based in Mountain View, Calif.

The clustering approach is transparent to end-users and administrators, Piscitello said, appearing as a single machine but offering the benefits of automatic failover in case of disk failure and a bolstered capacity for uptime.

"Clustering of inexpensive hardware is something we've done on Google.com and we are now offering in the appliance," he said. "You don't have to deal with the complexities of clustering but get the benefits."

In addition, the GB-5005 adds support for secure content including basic authentication and Microsoft NTLM ( Windows NT LAN Manager) authentication protocol.

The new capabilities allow the appliance to crawl public and secure documents, authenticate users, and display search results via access rights.

Other enhancements include increased content freshness achieved through a smaller index layer that is updated once per day or once per hour, combined with a larger layer updated less frequently, Piscitello said.

With the new box, Google now has an offering meant to handle the scalability and reliability issues of really large Web sites, particularly externally facing sites, according to Laura Ramos, director of research at Giga Information Group, based in Cambridge, Mass.

In a tough market for enterprise product sales, Google has achieved strong success with its appliance approach, Ramos said. Google maintains that a hardware/software combination results in higher reliability and faster deployment, and can replace the need for professional services. The company's "just plug in and go" mantra has appealed to customers in this tough economic client, Ramos aid.

Some corporate customers are a little skeptical of the appliance approach at first, but Google's trial period offering seems to be effective, she said.

"By and large the results [corporate users] are getting are very similar to the type of results you'd expect from Google.com. Customers are very happy with the relevance rankings, the look and feel, and the ability to get it up and running quickly and easily," Ramos said.

The capability to search secure content is an important requirement for enterprises, Ramos said. In addition, Google's approach is simple yet effective, she said.

"Google is not indexing the documents and keeping security controls inside the index and then worrying about synchronization," Ramsos said. Basically, when you do an inquiry they figure out whether the content is public or private, then they check whether or not you have the credentials to see the content."

Meanwhile, other vendors are also stepping up efforts in the search market.

InQuira, based in San Bruno, Calif., on Monday rolled out new versions of its industry-specific dictionaries for self-service corporate search. The dictionaries allow companies in the automotive, financial services, utilities, manufacturing, and high-tech industries to deploy self-service and search software applications for lowering customer support costs on the Web and in call centers.

The dictionaries tap InQuira's Cooper-Yuret algorithm that uses natural language processing to interpret the syntax of questions and the relationships between words, according to company officials.

In addition, the dictionaries store the background meaning of words and concepts that appear in customer questions and company content. For example, the auto industry layer contains words and concepts associated with braking distance, curb weight, and steering radius, according to InQuira officials.

Another search player, Cambridge, Mass.-based iPhrase, later this month plans to roll out an updated version of its One Step natural language search engine. Version 4.0 of One Step will include a modular enhancement dubbed Interaction Advantage, which allows a search to go beyond a corporate Web site and access information from pre-determined sites that could offer related and useful information, according to iPhrase officials.

Guided navigation technology provider Endeca, meanwhile, next week plans to launch its new Enterprise Search tool designed to combat the problem of information overload and too many search results returned per query. Endeca's offering aims to guide the user through unstructured data to the most relevant results, according to Endeca officials, also in Cambridge.

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