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October 29, 2007

Google Appliance Growing Up?


The newest version of the Google Search Appliance (GSA) is available, and it's starting to look like a pretty decent solution for more and more corporations.

Google released Version 5 provides what they call “Universal Search"  in October. The newest release for the entire GSA line (except the Mini) includes a number of excellent enterprise features including enhanced security; parametric search, Wiki KeyMatch, a social tagging for best bets; and an application called One Box, a search federator tool.

GSA security now includes Windows Integrated Authorization (WIA) and includes a security API to customize special security needs. It handles security both at crawl time and at search time. It fully respects data store security from all sources, so users only see documents, best bets, parametric results, and features which they have permission to view.

The parametric code in Universal Search is based on open source code available from Google (http://code.google.com/p/parametric/). In demos, it looks like most of the parametric demos we've seen; so we'll have to say more once we have a chance to drill down.

The odd feature in this release is the Wiki KeyMatch feature. Essentially it lets any employee tag a search result list by add "best bet" suggestions to the top of the result list for a given query. It looks like anyone can suggest a related or better result for any query. Apparently this has worked well in Google for a while, and Google folks say it's great. Administrators are notified when new tags are added or updated, and the best bet does show who created the tag. As Jimmy Wales says about his Wikipedia product, anyone posting understands that if the best bet is not useful or appropriate it's going to be removed; so in a sense any author who wants his/her best bet to survive, it better be good. I have to admit the corporate manager I’ve talked to are a bit skeptical; but it can potentially start using the 'wisdom of the crowd' to get better results where it works.

OneBox is a search federation application that provides a way to combine results from a number of different corporate data sources, as well as from Google Apps. As one of the Google folks said recently, "One Box is a way of pulling in live data (such as employee info, salesforce.com data, business objects data) right into your search results."

Google has a solution for SharePoint, Documentum, Livelink, and FileNet, as well as to Google Apps. They provide an API so you can write your own, and we're sure third party developers are busy working on then now. The Google provided connectors are free; but third party connectors may be priced depending on how the developer wants to market it.

Finally, Google also seems to have improved their existing "data biasing" to allow administrators to 'query tweak' using URL patterns and document recency.

The only bad news for small users and corporate departments is that the new upgrade and features are not (yet) available for the popular Google Mini.

If you looked at the Google offerings a while ago and they didn’t meet your needs, you may want to take a second look. It looks like they’ve started to come of age in the enterprise search market.




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Actually, the parametric search is not done server-side, but is done via JavaScript on the client (browser). This means this is a simulated parametric search, as opposed to a "proper" one, done at the server software level.

On the client, JavaScript will perform a second query to the GSA (through AJAX), retrieve some XML and count nodes. Given that the GSA can only return 100 results at a time, it is not possible to show accurate counts on the parametric values.

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