pitches search appliance for agency intranets
Inc. officials introduced a new version of
the Google Search Appliance last week, a move
company officials hope will help the popular
Internet search engine developer make inroads
into the intranet market and become even more
appealing to government agencies.
launched in 2002, the search appliance is
already in use by agencies such as the
departments of Energy, Education and Defense and
by state governments, including Arkansas,
Tennessee and Virginia. The new version comes
shortly after company officials announced the
initial public offering of their stock, which
greatly interested investors all over the world.
original appliance held up to 300,000
documents and could perform approximately 60
queries per minute. Agencies, however, continue
to put more and more information on their
intranets and many, particularly at the state
and local levels, are using the search appliance
to open their documents to the public. Designed
to accommodate that expansion, Google's new
version supports up to 1.5 million documents
with queries performed at about five times the
previous speed, said Dave Girouard, general
manager for Google's enterprise group.
ability to continuously search the network for
new documents a change from the previous
periodic batch checks helps keep search results
up-to-date and cuts down on bandwidth problems,
begins to be strong enough to support the full
enterprise," he said.
has been using the current search appliance
since 2002, moving to it after years of trying
to use free open-source search engines.
"Those just weren't meeting our
needs," said Janet Grard, general manager
with NIC Inc., which runs the state's Web portal
under the oversight of the Information Network
Google appliance was easy to install and the
basic administrative features, such as the
support for multiple file formats, have been
critical, Grard said. "It is very flexible,
and it provides the quality search results we
users with even greater needs, there are
clustered versions with five or eight of the
appliances grouped together that provide much
greater capacity. Clusters can be placed and
administered anywhere geographically, so they
also provide redundancy, Girouard said.
and comfortable as it is for users and
administrators, however, the Google Search
Appliance is not the solution for everyone
seeking access to their documents, said Sue
Feldman, research vice president of content
technologies at IDC.
are large enterprise installations that have
very knowledgeable staff and have very specific
things that they want to have in their
search," she said. "And then there are
smaller organizations, and they just want to
provide access to their documents and, by God,
all they want is [the] Google" Internet
search appliance relies on the same basic
technology as the search engine with which so
many are familiar. In addition to focusing on a
defined set of pages instead of the entire
Internet, the biggest difference is that
administrators can easily control security and
access. Many agency documents are not intended
for general view.
new version, the security is based on HTML forms
that pull the authentication and authorization
rules for users from existing policies, such as
those in Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory in
system will essentially inherit the credentials
for each document," Girouard said.
"What we're trying to avoid is the search
engine becoming a leak."
are also usage reports to tell
administrators what documents users are pulling
up, tools to automatically find and report
broken links and the ability to prioritize
documents through a tool called KeyMatch. That
tool allows administrators to set certain
documents to be highlighted in some way,
ensuring that users will notice them when
certain searches are performed, such as flagging
a new payroll form for searches involving the
words "pay" or "benefits."
feature has been particularly helpful, because
officials often want to make sure people see
specific documents or services, Grard said.
officials have not tested the new version of
the appliance yet, although the state's contract
is up for renewal soon, Grard said. But beyond
the greater capacity and faster search times,
the new continuous crawling of the network would
be a big plus, ensuring that government users
and citizens are finding the most up-to-date
information and documents, she said.
Google Search Appliance is fairly
inexpensive compared to full document management
applications, with a baseline cost of $32,000.
That seems to be a big draw for many government
agencies that are looking to get some basic
capability for their users, particularly at the
state and local levels where budgets are
tighter, Girouard said.
cash-strapped agencies, the increased capacity
and search time "means you're getting more
bang for your buck," Feldman said. "If
you just want to plug it in and go it's pretty
affordable compared to some of the search
really is the appliance's selling point, she
said. It doesn't take much time and it takes
little expertise for a system administrator to
install it and get it going. It will not,
however, replace a full document-management
application, and organizations have to decide
which capability they need and whether they have
the technology and expertise to meet that need.
got basic search vs. lots of flexibility and
lots of features it's just a different
approach," Feldman said.
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