Google has demonstrated its interest in winning over business users — and IT managers — with the introduction of features for its corporate search appliance that can crawl through data from business applications.
The Google OneBox for Enterprise taps into technology that Google has used for years in its consumer search engine that provides specialised results when users type in package-tracking numbers, addresses or keywords such as “weather” and “define”. Google has nearly 60 such specialised search modules integrated into Google.com.
Google is also launching the Google Enterprise Developer programme and an API to encourage developers to write modules that will link applications with the OneBox search features.
Through integration with partners Cisco, Cognos, Employease, NetSuite, Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAS, users can point the Google search engine at those back-end systems and return information at the top of their search results.
Google has also added support for crawling the Windows file system and independent developers have added a module for Microsoft Exchange that returns user information — such as phone and cell numbers — from the Exchange directory.
“We are seeing a new strategy from Google that is overdue,” says Whit Andrews, a research vice president at Gartner. “This says, ‘We are going to start behaving like an enterprise applications company’.”
However, Andrews says Google must prove to users that its enterprise play is not just a trojan horse for the advertising model that earns 99% of its revenue.
Google’s Enterprise division is tiny. It has about 100 employees, and software licensing represents 1% of the company’s overall revenue, which was US$6.1 billion (NZ$9.6 billion) in 2005.
Some observers say evidence of Google’s growing interest in the enterprise market can be seen in its new focus on serving large corporate customers.
“They are improving security controls and scalability [and] expanding capacity for both documents and queries, and that is making them more and more relevant for large enterprise-scale applications,” says Matt Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research.
In terms of security, OneBox supports authentication mechanisms that preserve access controls to the back-end applications it searches, to make sure users see only the data they are authorised to access. Google has added support for SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), LDAP and X.509 certificates. It has also added an authentication API, to go along with its authorisation API.
Users with an existing single sign-on deployment can tie that into the Google engine, but those without such capabilities will have to log onto each application before the Google appliance can search those systems.
“We see siloed information within companies and we see search as a way to break that down,” says Dave Girouard, vice president of Google Enterprise.
Microsoft and IBM see that, too. Google will compete with Microsoft’s SharePoint Server and
IBM’s WebSphere Portal, along with other portal and content-management vendors looking to ease discovery and access to information across corporate networks. Google will also compete with UltraSeek, an established business search engine.
The OneBox for Enterprise includes increased performance that allows as many as three million documents on a single server and boosts the query speed to 25 per second.