Update: Google woos the enterprise with expanded Search Appliance

Search Appliance now can index billions of documents and is Google's most serious attempt yet at winning customers that need industrial-strength enterprise search

A revamped software architecture for the Google Search Appliance (GSA) and a new high-end model of this enterprise search device lift its indexing capacity to billions of documents and make it easier to scale it up.

Version 6.0 of the GSA's software introduces a more flexible architecture that makes it easier to link the devices to increase the number of documents indexed.

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Meanwhile, Google is introducing a new model, the GB-9009, which can index up to 30 million documents out of the box. Its minimum capacity is 15 million documents.

Google sells the Search Appliance as a hardware box loaded with enterprise search software designed to let companies index and retrieve the data in their corporate systems, such as applications, document management tools, databases, Web servers and files. The software is based on the technology the company uses in its Web search engines, like Google.com.

In an enterprise search market historically dominated by sophisticated products that are costly and difficult to implement and use, Google has tried to attract underserved customers with an aggressively priced, low- to mid-range product designed to be simple to install, maintain, and use.

However, with this new architecture and capacity to scale up to billions of indexed documents, the Search Appliance seems to make its most serious attempt yet at competing for customers that need industrial-strength enterprise search.

The GB-9009 replaces the GB-8008, which, in order to scale to 30 million documents, Google had to hard-wire and preconfigure on 12 server nodes, said Nitin Mangtani, senior product manager of enterprise search at Google.

The GB-9009 is built on Dell's PowerEdge R710 platform, running Intel's Xeon 5500 Series processors. Unlike the other single-box Search Appliance models, the GB-9009 has two units: one for processing and one for storage.

In addition, Google is phasing out the entry-level GB-1001, which topped out at 3 million documents but could be stacked in configurations of either five or eight units, providing capacity for up to 10 million or 30 million documents, respectively. Previously, the GB-7007, which goes from 500,000 to 10 million documents, couldn't be stacked, but with the new 6.0 software, now it can, thus eliminating the need for the GB-1001.

Google will continue to support the 1001 and 8008 models.

While the GB-1001, GB-7007 and the GB-9009 run the new 6.0 software, the 8008 can't, so Google will work with 8008 customers so that they can migrate to the new architecture if they want to.

Although the GB-8008 isn't compatible with the 6.0 software, it's very simple to migrate its index and export its configuration to the GB-9009, Mangtani said.

Thanks to the new more flexible architecture, IT departments can mix and match 7007 and 9009 devices based on their capacity needs. The devices can be linked even if they're not in the same physical location.

While individual departments in an organization can manage their own Search Appliance devices, the end users query the individual indexes from a single interface, he said.

The new 6.0 software also adds more options for IT managers to customize administration, security and search relevancy features.

In addition, GSA 6.0 provides end users with social search capabilities, such as the ability for them to add results.

"Google has matured in its thinking about how enterprises implement search," said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research.

Enhancing the Search Appliance in areas like scale, customization and integration will resonate positively in the enterprise market, where Google's main challenge is being perceived primarily as a consumer-focused company, Wettemann said.

While the Search Appliance's functionality isn't still as sophisticated as that of high-end products from Autonomy and Microsoft's Fast Search, it has moved upstream with this latest round of enhancements, said IDC analyst Susan Feldman.

"The Search Appliance is no longer as much of a black box," Feldman said.

The Search Appliance starts at $30,000 with two years of technical support for the GB-7007 with a 500,000 document capacity. By purchasing additional capacity on the same box, IT managers can grow a GB-7007's index to 1 million, 3 million, 5 million and 10 million documents.

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