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It may not be as glamorous as Google's online video store or its 3-D geographical mapping service. Nor may it be as controversial as publishing copyrighted material online, but the search-engine company's efforts to grow its enterprise business appears to be picking up steam.
Just this month alone, Google launched two new Mini versions of its search appliances and announced a partnership with EMC under which the industry's leading storage supplier will link its Documentum Federated Search Platform with the Google Desktop Enterprise search interface. Google executives foresee a viable business in bringing the company's search technology to enterprises of all sizes.
And there's more. Since launching its partner program in September, Google has signed 40 ISVs and solution providers, and is in negotiations with some large systems integrators as well. "The demand has been amazing--from large VARs and various ISVs to start-up-type companies, large software companies and systems integrators," says Matt Glotzbach, Google's senior product manager for enterprise products. "The program has just been a runaway success."
Even so, the enterprise business is a mere blip on Google's radar screen given the company's success in its core markets--public search engines and advertising. According to Google's most recently announced financials, for Q3 2005, revenue from the company's noncore businesses--including the enterprise--remains insignificant. "In the grand scheme of things, [the enterprise] business is less than 1 percent of their revenue," says Forrester analyst Matt Brown. "And the bigger it gets, the lower their margins will be." (Google plans to report its Q4 earnings next Tuesday, Jan. 31.)
So the question for Google is this: Why bother getting into the enterprise space at all?
"Google's mission as a company is to organize the world's information," Glotzbach says. "The Google enterprise mission is to bring that technology [to customers] wherever applicable."
As it stands, Google's presence is already becoming a potentially disruptive force in the overall enterprise search market as companies such as Autonomy, Endeca, Convera and Fast Search & Transfer find themselves facing cost-model pressure as a result of Google's play in that space. "Google is really changing the rules around search for these companies," says Brown, noting that the likes of Convera and Autonomy have competed historically on the depth of their product functionality, the number of back-end data repositories to which they connect and their ability to customize and tweak searches.
With its two new midrange Minis, Google aims to fill the gap between its high-end Google Search Appliance and low-end, $3,000 Mini. Both the appliance and the Minis are based on PC-class hardware, a hardened version of Linux and the same search software the company uses for its public search service. With its latest Minis, priced at $6,000 and $9,000 and supporting the indexing of 200,000 documents and 300,000 documents, respectively, Google is targeting midsize enterprises.
In the meantime, EMC's agreement with Google to link the Federated Search Platform with Google Desktop Enterprise fits with EMC's strategy of supporting third-party search tools, says Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing for the EMC Software Group. "We're expanding our offering in a way that [allows] end users [to] search another class of information sources--their own desktops," Ptacek says. Might Documentum-Google Search Appliance integration be somewhere on the horizon? Perhaps. "We do definitely see other opportunities to work with EMC and Documentum down the road," Google's Glotzbach says.
As for the channel, Glotzbach perceives Google's partner community as the key to broadening the presence of the search appliances. "We saw the opportunity to serve the customer base better by reaching out to the partner community," Glotzbach says of Google's decision to launch its partner program, which includes training, certification and the use of an appliance for internal development. Google is looking for partners with expertise in systems integration.
One such partner, Ltech Consulting, a Hoboken, N.J.-based company that provides application systems integration, deployed the Google Search Appliance at Career Innovations, which runs job-search sites for pharmaceutical clients. Ed Laczynski, president of Ltech, says only two engagements have resulted from the company's alliance with Google so far, but he adds that a lot of deals are still in the making. "We're still working out some of the kinks with Google," Laczynski says. "We're learning more what leads are truly qualified and what we should spend our time on. "We have some things in the hopper, and we're working with some of our existing clients, as well as some [that Google] refers to us."
Other players smell opportunity--and competition--with the search-engine giant, too.
At least two are gunning for a piece of the search-appliance market--a sure sign of just how addressable that space really is.
One is ThunderStone Software, which offers a search appliance that's similar to Google's. Another, O-Ya, is officially getting off the ground this week. Its first product? The DeepSearch 100, an appliance that's similar in concept to the Google Mini and will be unveiled at next week's LegalTech show in New York. DeepSearch allows business customers to index specific internal resources. Because the appliance and software can be customized for each customer, O-Ya is billing it as a Private Search Device.
"We index all the desktop PCs and file servers on your local network," says Alan Steinberg, the founder and a principal of O-Ya, Scottsdale, Ariz. "Also, we mount all of the shares within the PCs, as well as the materials and documents associated with them."
Steinberg says O-Ya's go-to-market strategy centers on developing a network of channel partners, the first of which is CompUSA. The move has raised some eyebrows. "Our research says SMBs don't do a huge amount of purchasing gear through retail outlets, but who knows?" says Forrester analyst Matt Brown. "The problem with forecasting this market is there hasn't been a lot of products targeted at this." Among O-Ya's other obstacles, according to Brown, is that it's an unknown company. "Google has plenty of 'air cover'from their brand," he says. "They can experiment and put these products into the market."
But the naysaying isn't stalling O-Ya any. The company has even inked a distribution agreement with Avnet, which declined to comment for this article. O-Ya is funded soley by private-individual high-net-worth investors, most of whom are well-known ccomputer-industry executives who don't wish to be identified. The only who has stepped forward so far is PGA golfer Phil Mickelson.