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Google beefs up search hardware

Widening its footprint in enterprise search, the search giant plans to introduce new hardware and software to navigate corporate intranets and Web sites.

Widening its footprint in enterprise search, Google on Monday plans to introduce new hardware and software to navigate corporate intranets and Web sites.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant plans to unveil a new midrange search appliance, called the GB-5005, a multi-server system that indexes up to 3 million documents. It is also plans to introduce security and performance enhancements to two previously sold appliances, all allowing companies to harness Google's acclaimed technology to scan internal networks and public-facing Web sites.

With the latest upgrades, Google is aiming to further its presence in the corporate market, which it entered early this year. Widely known for its relevant results on the Web, the company has sought to broaden its business to corporate customers by adapting its search algorithms for intranets that hold a wide variety of file formats.

Search technology is increasingly important to corporations because it is seen as the key to unlocking repositories of company history and knowledge. As businesses amass data in the form of e-mail, spreadsheets, PDFs, HTML, text and word files, the need for navigation technology becomes vital.

But mining diverse documents and databases is no easy task and technology advances in this arena have largely been pioneered by companies such as Inktomi, Convera, Verity and Autonomy.

Still, Google hopes to build on its good name in consumer Web search. In January, the company introduced its first two hardware and software search appliances, the GB-1001 and the GB-8008.

The GB-1001, which can be mounted in a server rack, stores an index of 150,000 documents, or up to 10GB, and is priced at $28,000. When first introduced, the GB-8008, a freestanding device that holds 8GB GB-1001s, indexed millions of documents, but now can search up to 7 million documents. The product was priced at $250,000 when introduced.

Google's newest appliance, which has five clustered servers, is built to power search for up to 3 million documents. The technology powers searches in Web browsers, querying more than 200 different file formats converted to HTML. The company would not discuss pricing for the new appliance, but said that each appliance is available on a 30-day trial.

Google's family of servers.

"People like to have more options and flexibility in what they choose," said John Piscitello, product manager for the Google Search Appliance. This "is a good option for business-critical services--for example, if you have a customer-facing Web site for a state information portal, with big spikes in traffic during tax time."

In addition, all three appliances now include security features and enhanced search options. The technology allows companies using protected or secure Web servers to maintain the privacy of the documents contained within them, meaning only authorized staff can access secure documents. It also lets administrators search documents based on priority or timeliness.

So far, Google is catching on with corporations, universities and government offices. It has signed on customers such as Kaiser Permanente, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, and the California Department of Transportation, among others.

"Google's pizza-box strategy has seen significant interest, especially from enterprises seeking simple solutions for small sites and governmental entities who need predictable costs," said Whit Andrews, an analyst at GartnerG2. "Its weakest area for the foreseeable future will be in enterprises who seek a one-size-stretches-to-all solution for knowledge management, Web site search and expert location--a breadth Google simply cannot offer right now."