Google Search Appliance 5.0 “good but not groundbreaking”

Google’s update of its enterprise search appliance is packed with value, but falls short of providing any revolutionary features for business users, according to technology specialists.

Search Appliance 5.0 – launched a few weeks ago – delivers better search and security features, but does little to differentiate itself from the competition, according to George Goodall, senior analyst for Info-Tech Research Group, in London, Ont.

“The upgrade moves along the lines of Google’s work on federated search but there are no revolutionary improvements,” he said.

Another expert agrees.

“Google offers great value, but there are a lot of other search solutions in the market,” said Adam Cole, director of specialty technology for McKesson Canada, a healthcare product and services provider.

Google Search Appliance 5.0 is an integrated hardware and software product that enables users to search for and access information residing in various applications used across a business.

Prices start at $38,676 for models that search up to 500,000 documents.

Using what is called a federated search approach, the product crawls through content contained in Web portals, employee directories, calendars, or customer relation ship management (CRM), business intelligence (BI) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

The Search Appliance creates a master index of the data, preparing it for instant retrieval when a user types in a search query.

With the growing amount of data that even medium scale businesses are handling, a fast and reliable search tool has become very important, said Goodall.

Equally important is the need to restrict access to certain data because of privacy concerns, proprietary information, or compliance issues.

Google said the product can index millions of documents and is equipped with a configurable security feature that can restrict access to certain databases and types of information, based on roles.

Businesses can either purchase software-based or hardware-based search tools, said Goodall.

Appliance units are generally easy to install, quick to start up and require minimal configuration and administration.

“Appliance-based products, however, tend to be brute force tools that do not have the sophisticated taxonomy and cataloging features of software solutions,” Goodall said.

He said high-end models often have enhanced recall and process capabilities that enable more accurate gathering of relevant documents and ranking of the search results.

Cole, who is also national director for the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), said Search Appliance 5.0 will be ideal for most medium scale businesses, or a department of a large enterprise.

He noted that the appliance comes with pre-built connectors for repositories such as Microsoft SharePoint, IBM FileNet, OpenText Live Link and EMC Document.

“The connectors will be a great advantage for companies that use the supported enterprise content management (ECM) applications, but organizations using other products will be out of luck,” he said.

Companies using other ECMs will have to wait for their vendors to develop integration with Search Appliance using the application programming interface provided by Google.

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