Google slams Autonomy over enterprise search claims

Google official slams search vendor Autonomy, saying it made inaccurate critiques of its search appliance.

Google is firing back at enterprise search vendor Autonomy, saying the company recently distributed a white paper that contains "significant inaccuracies" about Google's Search Appliance.

The white paper, according to Google, states that Search Appliance "does not index all your critical content."

"On the contrary, the Google Search Appliance was designed to search all critical content in the enterprise, including file shares, intranets, databases, and real-time business data - all from one simple search box," wrote Nitin Mangtani, lead product manager, enterprise search, on an official blog. Mangtani added that Google has also supplied connectors to products like SharePoint and Documentum, and an open-source content connector framework.

The white paper does not appear to be available on Autonomy's Web site, nor is it provided through Google's blog post.

Autonomy's document also claimed Search Appliance lacks enterprise-level security, according to Mangtani. It in fact supports a number of security access control systems and also allows security settings at the document level, he said. The latter "ensures that end-users see only those documents in the results list to which they have access," according to Mangtani.

In addition, the white paper noted that the search appliance's "capabilities are still being honed," Mangtani wrote.

"This is certainly true: We are constantly working to improve the appliance, to make sure it offers ever increasing relevancy out of the box," he acknowledged.

However, he added, "The fact is that we employ thousands of engineers focused on search relevancy and quality. In the last three months alone, seven new Google Enterprise Labs experiments have been launched (by Google, not third parties as Autonomy claimed) to enhance the enterprise search experience."

Autonomy responded to a request for comment Thursday in a prepared statement that did not directly address the white paper. The company did not provide a copy of the document.

The statement, attributed to CEO Michael Lynch, said Google's appliance lacks the level of security and connectivity that high-end customers need. "Autonomy has producticized connectors to over 400 repositories, has mapped security and does not rely on one box or federation methods to make this work," the statement reads in part. "Google should appreciate why these differences are crucial for large enterprise search systems."

Meanwhile, a report released in December by the analyst firm CMS Watch also said the company's technology has certain shortcomings, among them a lack of "advanced tuning controls found in most other enterprise search products."

But search analyst Guy Creese of Burton Group said the truth essentially lies in the middle.

"The two companies have fundamentally different views about search, and it shows in their arguments," Creese said via e-mail. "Autonomy feels search is mission-critical and in many cases needs to be significantly tuned; Google figures 'Why hoard it?' Enterprise search should be easy to use and cheap."

"In the end, they're both right," he added. "The Google Appliance has certainly given quality enterprise search to literally thousands of companies for a low price. Many of the companies that bought the Google Search Appliance never would have paid Autonomy's price for Autonomy's more sophisticated solution. However, my experience has been that after companies use the Appliance for several years and get more sophisticated about search, they get frustrated at their inability to significantly tune the search results."

This is the second time Google's search team has responded to an Autonomy white paper, and overall the exchange is reflective of the tightening market for enterprise search.

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