Google boxes clever with enterprise search

The OneBox will simplify the process of searching across many internal applications, from CRM to Exchange, as Google digs deeper into the business market

Google launched a new enterprise search application on Wednesday, which it claims will help employees to find information from all their internal applications through a single search box.

Google OneBox for Enterprise is bundled within the latest version of the Google Search Appliance, a hardware and software product that adds search to an enterprise network. OneBox extends that search into a company's CRM software, financial records, sales figures and other internal databases, through a single search request.

Several enterprise software firms already support OneBox, including Oracle, Cognos, Cisco, SAS, Salesforce.com, Employease and NetSuite. These partner companies have developed modules that will allow their applications to interact with OneBox. Google hopes to encourage developers to create modules for other applications.

Analysts say it represents a deeper move into the business space by Google.

"Google is taking steps to cement its initial success in the enterprise space, through OneBox and its partnerships," said Angela Ashenden, senior analyst at Ovum, speaking at the launch of the OneBox in London. "It has an opportunity to be known as an enterprise applications brand as well as a search player... I see this as a big step forward," she continued.

The latest version of the Google Search Appliance starts at £21,000 for a version that can index up to 500,000 internal documents. Companies who have a current service contract for a previous purchase will be able to add OneBox through an upgrade from Google.

The key to OneBox's success may be the willingness of software developers to create modules for currently unsupported applications and release them under an open source licence.

The Google Enterprise Developer Community has been created to address this, and will allow coders to access the OneBox API.

"We plan to be one of the major contributors to the community, and will drive it by example," said Matthew Glotzbach, business product manager at Google, who declined to say which open source licence Google might use. "We won't enforce one licence," Glotzbach added.

Microsoft was one high-profile enterprise software vendor not listed as a partner for OneBox. However, companies can still integrate information within Microsoft Exchange into a OneBox search, via a third-party module.

"We have Microsoft Exchange modules. They're not from Microsoft, but were developed by third-party developers at Sada and Ltech," explained Kevin Gough, product marketing manager for Google Enterprise.

There isn't a module for SQL Server, though, as a newly installed Search Appliance will typically index a company's SQL Server data without need for a separate plug-in.

Gough also played down Microsoft's absence from the partner list.

"We wanted applications as partners, rather than companies. Exchange is a great application to have as a partner," said Gough. "Whether or not we talked to Microsoft, I can't say."

Google also showed off a new version of its Mini search appliance, which is aimed at small businesses. It is half the size and weight of the predecessor, and can search twenty five percent faster. It starts at £1,295 for a version that can index 50,000 documents.

"We want to say to companies, if you're thinking about buying a new PC, buy a Mini instead," Gough told journalists.

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