Mini Finds Its Search BearingsBy Jim Rapoza | Posted 2006-08-21 Email Print
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In the modern technology world, Google is the 600-pound gorilla. Companies from Microsoft to Oracle to Verizon are terrified that the reigning Internet search giant will move into their markets, wielding its massive user base and general willingness to give away applications for free as very potent competitive weapons.
But there is one area in which Google is more of an eager chimpanzee than a massive gorilla, and that area, surprisingly, involves searchenterprise and corporate search, to be exact.
Google is essentially synonymous with search when it comes to the Web, but it's just another option when it comes to company Web sites, portals and intranets. And it's an option that often isn't designed specifically to meet the needs of businesses, especially when compared with competing solutions from companies such as Autonomy, Thunderstone Software and, yes, Microsoft.
eWeek Labs tested the recently updated Google Mini appliance and found that it showcases both the strengths and the weaknesses of the Google corporate search strategy. The new appliance has all the capabilities and features that one would expect from Google. Indeed, if a company's desire is to implement "Google" within its corporate environment (and that is exactly the desire of some companies), then the Google Mini is an excellent choice.
However, if a business needs a corporate search solution that goes beyond standard Google Web search functionalityone that provides enterprise features such as categorization and taxonomies or that integrates with company collaboration, document management and sales toolsit should look elsewhere.
The Google Mini, released this spring, features several improvements over the previous Mini. The new Mini is smaller (think of a small-pizza box versus a large-pizza box), and it can easily crawl documents on network file shares and allows unlimited collections.
But the biggest change to the Mini platform is in pricing and deployment. The new Google Mini offers more tiered and high-volume pricing options, so businesses that exceed a 100,000-document limit will no longer have to jump to the much more expensive Google Appliance. Pricing for the Google Mini now starts at $1,995 for search indexes of up to 50,000 documents and goes to $8,995 for search indexes of up to 300,000 documents.
Despite being a "mini" appliance, the Google Mini is still thankfully rackable, with a 1U profile that extends back only half as far as most appliances.
During our tests, deployment was very simplewe just plugged the provided crossover cable into a laptop to perform initial configuration. Once this was done, we had the Google Mini creating document indexes in literally minutes. Within the browser-based administration interface, we merely added the URLs of the sites we wanted to crawl, defined filters and other configurations, and were off and running. We could schedule either full crawls or continuous crawls, where the appliance looked for changed content.
While previous versions of the Google Mini could crawl networked directories only if the directories had been Web-enabled, the new Google Mini can directly access shares through the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. We could therefore add networked directories in the same way we added Web URLs (entering, for example, smb://directory/to/crawl).
The Google Mini's administration interface has been tweaked slightly, but most configuration options remain the same as in previous Google appliances. We configured collections and front-end and search result interfaces as we always have, although there is now no limit to the number of front ends that can be created and deployed.
The new Google Mini creates detailed logs that can be exported to advanced reporting systems, and it has built-in reports that, while useful, aren't as comprehensive as those included in many other corporate-oriented search engines.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autonomy's Idol K2
The former Verity K2 engine is the dominant search engine in the corporate enterprise market (www.autonomy.com)
Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server
In the Microsoft enterprise ecosystem, SharePoint has become the main answer for most questions, including search (www.microsoft.com/sharepoint)
Thunderstone's Search Appliance
While it lacks the name recognition of many of its competitors, Thunderstone has a long track record in providing enterprise-ready search solutions (www.thunderstone.com)