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Google Connects Search Appliances For Billion Document Indexing

With 34 GSAs linked together, Google says version 6 could let a company host a search index that's as big as the entire Google Web index in the year 2000.
Randy Woods, executive VP at Canadian IT integrator Non-Linear Creations, said Google still faces some challenges in enterprise search. "There's no doubt that its brand has given Google a prominence inside the firewall that it might not have received just from the technology," he said in a phone interview.

Yet, he added, while most large organizations have at least one Google Search Appliance, they often don't use it for the bulk of their search needs.

According to Mangtani, when Google entered the enterprise search space, things were very complicated and users couldn't find the files they sought. Google's work has been to simplify search for companies.

Woods contended that search is still complicated, despite Google's efforts. As he put it in a presentation at the Gilbane content management conference last year: "There are certainly a handful of vendors out there that suggest that their algorithms are so well baked that when you plug in their yellow box, you don't need to do any tuning of the system. I think the actual line from Google is that if you attempt to tune the algorithm, you end up with a whole chaos of search results."

Woods conceded that there's something to be said for the plug-in-and-play approach. But he compares the process of setting up enterprise search to orienting a new employee: No matter how smart your new hire is, he or she is unlikely to understand how things are done at the company.

That's not necessarily a problem for Google, given that the company's GSA provides controls to help it understand what customers consider to be relevant. But it does suggest that simplicity is more complicated in enterprise search than it is in consumer search.

"Google's sweet spot," Woods said, "is where people are indexing content that doesn't have any security requirements."

Woods' point is not that Google's search hardware can't meet security requirements. He said it can, but the configuration isn't as simple as it could be, at least compared with the security options in Microsoft Office SharePoint.

At the same time, organizations such as NASA -- which has a close relationship with Google, has been using GSAs for years, has significant security requirements, and has been beta testing version 6.0 -- appear to be pleased with Google's enterprise search boxes.

And Google can point to other happy GSA customers like corporate financial services company Northern Trust and defense logistics and engineering company MTCSC.

The bottom line is that search, and evaluating search hardware, isn't simple for anyone. But if company has a shot at making it simple, it's probably Google.

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