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One of the most recognized names in the IT industry has joined with one of the biggest names in the IT channel to bring search capabilities to companies large and small.

A deal between Ingram Micro, of Santa Ana, Calif., and Google, of Mountain View, Calif., to distribute the latter’s enterprise and SMB (small and midsize business) search appliances signals a desire by Google to expand its fledgling channel program.

Google chose Ingram Micro because it is the world’s largest global IT distributor and because it has enjoyed success in targeting both medium-size and small businesses as well as local government and education customers.

“We believe [Ingram Micro brings] a lot to the table in terms of making products successful in those markets,” said Rodrigo Vaca, channel marketing manager for Google Enterprise. Google Enterprise makes up just 1 to 2 percent of the company’s revenue but is growing at a rate of about 100 percent per year, a spokesperson said. That compares to the company’s total revenue increase of about 70 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Ingram Micro expands its managed services program. Click here to read more.

While not an exclusive deal, Vaca characterized the Ingram Micro agreement as the largest deal of its kind for the Google.

“We are not expecting to sign a similar deal in the near future,” he said. Google has signed smaller deals on a regional basis outside the United States.

Ingram Micro will distribute the Google Mini, which is targeted at SMBs, and the Google Search Appliance, aimed at large corporations. The technology makes it possible for users to find files anywhere on their computers and the networks to which they are attached.

“We’ve heard from VARs, and there is a need for this,” said Keith Bradley, president of Ingram Micro North America. “Data is scattered all over. It is in multiple different places in any business. This appliance will come back with search results for all internal data, regardless of where it is stored.”

Google has been selling its enterprise search appliance directly since its introduction five years ago and has been selling through channel partners “in a very limited fashion” for the last two years, Vaca said. For example, the company has created deals with partners in Japan and Latin America.

“We’ve been seeing revenue growth accelerating and wanted to create a more scalable program,” said Vaca. “That’s why we entered this contract with Ingram Micro.”

Ingram Micro’s Bradley said there is definitely a “cool factor” associated with carrying an international brand such as Google; however, it is really just another piece of emerging technology for the distribution giant.

The appliance should do particularly well in data-rich enterprises, he said, and will fit well with Ingram Micro’s division that specializes in consolidation and virtualization.

In addition, Bradley said he could perhaps see a longer-term fit for the Google appliance in terms of software as a service or hardware as a service.

Vaca said Google itself had no plans of offering the enterprise indexing as a hosted service but that some partners were indeed offering the appliance on a hosted basis to end customers.

Google recently celebrated the milestone of 9,000 enterprise customers for its Google Search Appliance, targeted at larger enterprises that need to index up to 3 million documents, and for its Google Mini, targeted at smaller offices that need to index up to 300,000 documents.

“We are on a mission here,” said Vaca. “The mission is to bring enterprise search to the masses. Before Google got into the space, enterprise search was expensive, difficult and little known.”

Google said channel partners can get a variety of benefits from adding the product to their offerings. First, they receive margins from the product sale. Second, they receive the revenue from any service sales they can attach to the deal. And third, they will receive the margins from any other products or services they can attach to the deal.

Installation complexity depends on the complexity of the enterprise, said Vaca. The Google search appliances index enterprise documents from e-mail to ERP (enterprise resource planning) to enable quick return of search results. Installers point the appliance to the data to be indexed. Large networks with ERP systems and complex access controls and security can add time to the installation. Google enterprise appliances rely on the access controls already set up in the network so that users only see the search results they are allowed to see.