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Google's Enterprise Hardware Gets Universal Search

Improvements let companies see single-line results from apps like, EMC Documentum, IBM FileNet, OpenText Livelink, and Microsoft SharePoint.

Google's enterprise search hardware is getting a brain transplant.

The fifth generation of the Google Search Appliance (GSA), which Google plans to announce on Wednesday, will incorporate the Universal Search technology that Google made available to Internet searchers in May.

Universal Search brings different media types -- text, images, and videos, for example -- together so that they can be searched, and listed in a search results page, as if they existed in a single index.

Universal Search represented a major engineering effort for Google and its introduction was attended by several of the company's top executives, including Elliot Schrage, VP of global communications and public affairs; Craig Silverstein, Google's technology director; Udi Manber, VP of engineering; Marissa Mayer, VP of search products & user experience; and Alan Eustace, senior VP of engineering and research.

According to Matt Glotzbach, product manager for Google's enterprise division, Universal Search is "as important, if not more important, inside the enterprise."

With the new GSA and Universal Search, business users will be able to execute a keyword search and see results from business applications like, the corporate intranet, Google Apps files, news feeds, and various enterprise content management systems, including EMC Documentum, IBM FileNet, Microsoft SharePoint, and OpenText Livelink.

"People have been spending millions getting information into [enterprise content management systems]," said Glotzbach. "But the promise is really getting information out."

That's where the Google Search Appliance comes in. It promises secure access to corporate data sources across the company.

In conjunction with Wednesday's planned announcement, Google intends to make its connector software -- the code that links the GSA to enterprise content management repositories, the connector manager, and the connector framework -- available under an open source license.

Glotzbach explained that there are more than 300 commercially supported enterprise content management systems and that third-party developers may be more motivated than Google's engineers to write connectors to the GSA.

The GSA also is getting more biased, in a good way. It already includes source biasing, which lets administrators make results from specific sources rank higher on a search results list. With version 5, GSA administrators have access to date biasing, which can be used to make recent documents more or less prominent in searches.

"In some organizations, the recentness of a document is a strong indication of its relevancy," said Glotzbach, citing news publishers as an example.

Google also plans to unveil Google Enterprise Labs, a business-oriented version of Google Labs. Glotzbach said Google Enterprise Labs will feature technology that's being tested for use in the GSA like search-as-you-type searching, KeyMatching (user-defined search results that can be set to appear when certain keywords are searched), Parametric Search (limiting searches by certain parameters like Country, Industry, or Topic), and Filtering.

Glotzbach also said that Google is planning to offer OneBox access -- search results from an outside index formatted as befits the type of source -- to online Google Docs files through its GSA. This would allow corporate users to search through their online documents -- files stored on Google's servers -- as if they were inside the corporate firewall and locally accessible.

Version 5 also features secure crawling and serving of file system content, support for Microsoft Windows Integrated Authentication (WIA), and enhancements to its SAML-based Authentication and Authorization API.

At the close of 2006, Google ranked third in enterprise search revenue, with 8.5% of the market and 87.3% growth that year, according to a June 2007 report from research firm IDC. Fast Search & Transfer ranked second, with 8.9% of the market and 49% growth. Autonomy remains the dominant player, with 15.2% of the market and 46.4% growth.

With the GSA's new ability to connect to enterprise content management sources, Glotzbach expects that Google will be able to win more deals with large corporate customers. To date, Google's enterprise group has been more successful with small- and medium-sized businesses. Google claims to have more than 10,000 active appliance customers.

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