Google Brings ‘OneBox’ Search to Enterprises

Google has upgraded its search appliance line, bringing to theenterprise the concept of “OneBox” search to help expedite Web searches. Google also added several key partners as it seeks to beef up its product line aimed at big businesses and organizations.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company plans to add asoftware upgrade to the Google Search Appliance to enable simplified searches of software applications from several high-profile partners, including Cognos, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAS, Employease and Cisco Systems.

Special Results

Google has used the term “OneBox” to describe special results on Google.com that appear above regular search results. For instance, Google will recognize a 12-digit number as a Federal Express tracking code and return the package tracking information at the top of the search results page, eliminating the need to sort through links or even click to a separate page.

“It’s become a way that people have gotten more out of their searches,” Dave Girouard, manager of Google enterprise, told the E-Commerce Times. “We’re extending that to the enterprise.”

For example, a user could type “East Coast sales” into the enterprise search box and results from the Cognos business intelligence application could be returned at the top. Typing in the name of a person might return contact information and schedule availability from the Microsoft Exchange server. Microsoft is not a partner, but third parties have developed links to Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes.

Along with the OneBox upgrade, which is available as a free download to existing customers, Google announced other improvements to its appliance line aimed at making it faster and more secure. It also upgraded its Google mini product line, making it both smaller by one-half and faster, with the ability to process 25 queries per second, up from one query per second.

Partners in Time

Other key features, according to Girouard, support Google’s efforts to get more developers to work with the enterprise search tool. These include Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for downloads and a simulator program to allow developers to test their plug-ins.

“We’ve taken a page from our friends in the maps teams and borrowed a bit from the desktop team,” Girouard said, noting that both have been able to convince third party developers to create widgets and plug-ins to enhance the functionality of their vertical search categories.

“The idea is not for Google to necessarily go out and strike partnerships all the time, but to open things up to the world of developers a bit more,” he added.

Still, the inclusion of marquis names in the latest announcement emphasizes how partnerships have grown in importance for Google as it makes a bid to extend its brand into the enterprise space. It makes sense to work with Google, its partners say, because employees come to work familiar with the interface and with the expectation that searching on a company’s network will be as easy and effective as Web searches.

For the partners, the search enhancement is a way to boost the use of their products at no cost to them, Girouard noted.

Ramping Up

Enterprise search grew by some 25 percent in 2005, according to research firm IDC. Google does not break down its financials by category, but says its enterprise unit now has some 3,000 active customers, had 2005 sales growth of 100 percent, and now employs more than 150 people.

Girouard described the new developments as another step in Google’s long-term development of its enterprise program, with a focus on partnerships — one that started about six months ago with Google’s professional program, which enables developers and integrators to be trained in Google Enterprise Search.

The effort expanded with Google’s partnership with consultancy BearingPoint, which created the first corporate search consulting practice in conjunction with Google, and now enables search to work “with a lot of applications that are important to how businesses function.”

“On the Web, there’s almost nothing you can’t get through the single search box,” Girouard said. “We’re looking to extend that to the enterprise, so that people are searching not just documents and Web pages, but are able to get contact info, customer info and inventory levels all with one click — whatever they need to get the job done.”

Google believes it can expand its software business to help diversify the company’s revenue stream, Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said. Working with partners that already have a strong enterprise presence is a significant and necessary step for a company that has gained a reputation for being willing to storm into new markets on the strength of its technology and its sheer size, Andrews added.

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