How Microsoft battles Google in Search warfare

Is Google Enterprise Search a joke? I noted yesterday, given Google was the butt of jokes at the Enterprise Search Summit in New York City earlier this week.

Is Google Enterprise Search a joke? I noted yesterday, given Google was the butt of jokes at the Enterprise Search Summit in New York City earlier this week. Kevin Gough, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Google Enterprise, made a case at the Summit for why Google to big business: Google love belongs in the Enterprise!

Gough’s counterpart at Microsoft, however, believes Enterprise customers want an integrated business productivity platform, such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), not a consumer turned business search product, such as Google Search Appliance.

As Group Product Manager for MOSS, Jared Spataro is on a who needs Google in the enterprise mission.  “Sometimes it takes a lot to wake a sleeping giant.  But when he finally stirs, you’d better be ready for a fight,” Spataro told me.

I met with Spataro at the Summit to discuss the Microsoft Enterprise Search go-to-market strategy and how Microsoft fights Google in the enterprise trenches. "Enterprise search is our business, it's our house and Google is not going to take that business," Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, assured business partners last July. Spataro told me it is his job to “deliver on that commitment and ensure that we marshall all of our resources and assets to compete effectively in this market.”

The business search market is a high-touch one. Spataro segments the market into 1) low-end, commodity, 2) high-end, specialized and 3) emerging, enterprise.

The market  environment is evolving; Spataro described to me three basic types of customer buying behaviors:

Low-end growth is being driven by a buyer we’ve labeled the “transactional buyer.”  S/he buys based on brand and the ease of the eval/purchase/install/maintenance experience.

High-end growth is being driven by a buyer we’ve labeled the “specialized buyer.” S/he typically sees the search problem fundamentally as a complex information management problem.

Between the two extremes in the market, growth is being driven by two types of buyers: A “strategic buyer” who tends to see search as a part of a larger infrastructure strategy; and A “silo buyer” who just wants to buy search and usually follows a “standard IT procurement process” to do that (requirements, short-lists, evals, PoCs, etc.) 

Google’s Mini business targets the low-end, transactional buyer, Spataro said, “But increasingly IT purchases of Search are being driven by “silo buyers” or “strategic buyers,” both of whom sit in IT and both of whom have high expectations for a potential solution”:

The most interesting trend we’re seeing is the increasing involvement of the “strategic buyer” in the search decision process. This buyer—who tends to be a senior IT exec with responsibility for a broad set of IT investments—understands the value of an integrated business productivity platform. This gives us a base to work from in making the Search discussion not just a conversation about the here-and-now problem of Search, but a more productive dialogue about the value of Search as a part of a broader productivity investment.

What are the similarities and differences between Enterprise Search from Microsoft and Google? The answers drive the Microsoft vs. Google trench warfare for the Enterprise Search customer.

Spataro told me Microsoft takes a “very straightforward, two-step approach,” in walking IT buyers thorough a comparative value proposition analysis:

We start with a baseline overview of core Enterprise Search capabilities.  Google’s Search Appliances are fundamentally based on the theory that if you take web search and slowly modify it over time you’re going to get it right for the Enterprise. We disagree.  We think that if you start with web search and slowly modify it over time, you end up with web search that never quite crosses the threshold of what IT Professionals need to do the job right.

Spataro on core Microsoft vs. Google differentiators:

Security – We offer the ability to index access control lists and the ability to do real-time security trimming.  Google does only real-time security trimming.

Scalability and High Availability – We offer an architecture that allows IT Professionals to create a search topology/deployment that meets their needs—for scalability, high availability or both.  Google is locked to the Appliance model and is limited in both dimensions.  Our single-index alone scales to more than 20 million more docs than Google; The ability to cluster web front ends and query servers and support for dedicated indexing hardware makes all the difference.

Customization/Development – Our search solutions are built on a technology stack that no one in the industry can match, allowing customers to easily customize the look and feel with dedicated design tools or to access our web service interfaces or object models to fully customize the solution.

Relevance – Our relevance algorithms were designed for the Enterprise and have been tuned for the environment. Google’s relevance algorithms started with Page Rank, an approach that works well on the Internet but that doesn’t yield good results inside the firewall.

Unstructured Content Search – We support more content sources out of the box (including Lotus Notes) and have an open architecture for writing connectors to other unstructured content sources.

Structured Content Search – The Business Data Catalog allows customers to connect to structured data systems and line-of-business systems with no-code, providing the ability to both index the information and perform “business actions” on the results; Customers can build composite apps that use search as an interface for really driving business processes. In contrast, Google’s OneBox is a clever—but limited—federation framework that hard-codes how you interface with specific systems.

Manageability – Our approach to meta-data management is far superior, allowing customers to easily manage information the system finds as it crawls content; Google has no ability to manage metadata.

Desktop Search – Windows Desktop Search, for Windows XP, and Windows Vista provide rich, actionable search interfaces.  We do extremely well when customers compare our offerings to Google Desktop; Google Desktop is browser-based and has the limitations—both in presentation as well as interaction—of typical browser-based applications.

Spataro on the key Microsoft is “more than Search” IT sales proposition in the Microsoft vs. Google Enterprise battle :

Enterprise Search from Microsoft is available as a stand-alone server, but can also be purchased/deployed as an integrated piece of MOSS.  For the price of Search from Google, an Enterprise can purchase Search plus a collaboration platform, plus a portal platform, plus a content management platform, plus a forms/workflow platform, plus a BI/dashboarding platform.


ALSO:  Google vs. Microsoft Office? NO: vs. Open Office (.org)! and Is Google Office really an enigma? and Google user data cloud: Do you trust it? and Google Apps goes Enterprise Professional: $5000 please