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Google Tussles With Autonomy Over Search Criticism

An Autonomy white paper that condemns Google's enterprise search technology ruffles feathers between engineers at the two companies.

Google Enterprise product management director Matt Glotzbach on Tuesday threw down the gauntlet and accused Autonomy, an enterprise search company, of lying about Google's search technology to scare potential customers.

At issue is an Autonomy white paper that describes Google's enterprise search technology using, as Glotzbach put it, "[i]naccuracies about our enterprise ranking algorithms, and downright fabrications about our security and access control capabilities."

"The text is an amalgamation of hearsay and speculation attempting to push customers away from Google and toward their competitive product," said Glotzbach in a blog post.

Autonomy declined to comment on the paper or provide a copy. "It is dated and no longer published," explained Julie Ginches, VP of marketing. "It was originally written in response to questions and misinformation when Google [first launched the Google Search Appliance]. It's basically irrelevant because we see them in less than 1% of all deals."

A Google spokesperson also declined to make the paper available.

The white paper, according to Glotzbach, claims that Google's enterprise search technology "relies on rich linking technology that was built for the Web to determine relevancy." "This is false, and it's misleading," he said, noting that PageRank, Google's most well-known algorithm for Web search relevancy is only one of hundreds of factors used to compute relevancy for documents inside corporate firewalls.

The white paper acknowledges that non-secure Web servers can be easily integrated with Google's enterprise search hardware but "integrating information from databases, file systems and content management applications into Google is considerably more complex -- and in some cases impossible." Again, Glotzbach refutes the charge, claiming that Google's search hardware can access "all content stores in an enterprise" and notes that this can be done in less than 30 minutes. "What's the setup time for other enterprise search systems?" he asked pointedly.

Glotzbach goes on to dismiss Autonomy's claims about Google's shortcomings in the areas of language support, stemming (expanding queries to include variations of root words, i.e.: dog, dogs, doggie), and security.

"In perhaps the most egregious statement in the whole document, the paper states that 'Google provides open access to most documents -- a potential hazard for businesses needing to keep proprietary information under wraps,'" Glotzbach bristles. "From the beginning, we have provided fast, accurate, and SECURE search within the enterprise. Our document-level security and access control capabilities ensure that users only see the content they are allowed to see, without requiring customers to deploy a new security system or undergo complex integrations. Google's appliances are used in the most secure environments including Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies as well as numerous government agencies."

Autonomy just reported strong second quarter revenue and its prospects look good given the ongoing need for tools to manage and search unstructured data at large corporations.

Google meanwhile has been growing rapidly at the lower end of the enterprise market, having won some 9000 customers.

Why an outdated marketing document would surface now is anyone's guess. Perhaps it's all just a misunderstanding.

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