Google Seeks Partners For Business Software Effort

The goal is to entrench the company's search technology into businesses and open up troves of corporate data heretofore off limits to the search capabilities embedded in the Google Appliance and Google Mini products.

Michael Cizmar, president of MC+A, a Chicago-based portal expert, said his company is a perfect fit.

"Our skill set is around the Microsoft platform, and we're working with Google to develop simple ways to get them into Microsoft SharePoint [sites] and get the content out," Cizmar told CRN.

"The current crawler can't get into those folders. We'll release a WebPart that will allow someone with the search appliance and Google Mini to get in there," he said.

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There's no doubt that this is a fruitful market. There is untold amount of data in the SharePoint workspaces that have sprung up like kudzu across the corporate landscape, users said. Google has hinted that it will get more serious about its channel effort but has not disclosed details until now.

Google plans to promote the effort and WebPart on its new partner site, and Cizmar hopes to glean leads as a result. Microsoft is doing its own SharePoint-based corporate search tool, but the company now fields a confusing array of search technologies, partners said. What Google brings is a proven talent at search and an extremely familiar, easy-to-use interface. In essence, everyone already knows how to Google.

When Cizmar was asked how he and Google found each other, he said, "That's easy. We did a Google ad."

Another one of Google's flagship partners is Neon Systems, which specializes in accessing data in mainframe applications.

"Google is capitalizing on the value of its brand to extend the reach of search inside the firewall," said Mark Cresswell, CEO of Houston-based Neon. It's a bonus that the people who want to find that information are also used to Google, he said, adding, "Why not use the tool you're familiar with?"

Neon aims to sell tools to bridge the Google indexing and search to back-end data, Cresswell said.

"Most corporate data does not manifest itself on a Web page. There are all sorts of arcane forms. Thus far they've been impenetrable," he said. "So Google needs someone to do these adapters, for lack of a better word."

Google is mum on how much money it's putting into its program, which is geared more toward providing select partners with free gear and training than market development funds. Several partners said they received the Google appliance and training. Google also has published APIs for its enterprise products to make them friendlier to third-party developers, said David Girouard, general manager of Google's Enterprise Group.

There is no target number of partners, Girouard added. "It's not really a numbers game. We're looking for coverage and expertise we can rely on and deliver business to," he said. "In our view, it&s not about having a big number but having a manageable number of partners with expertise."

In particular, Google seeks partners with deep knowledge or customer bases in the intelligence community and those with legacy applications.

"If you look at the way you can now get UPS tracking info out of, you can see that there's plenty of room to take data from SAP [or other applications] and make it available," Girouard told CRN.

Of course, whatever Google is spending, it is likely a piddling amount compared with the billions that Microsoft has made in channel investment over the years. And while Google and IBM teamed on Google-enabling Lotus Notes for corporate customers, IBM has positioned its own search as a "Google for the enterprise."

Some industry observers say it's only a matter of time before those two allies butt heads.

"IBM is a competitor in enterprise search, Verity is another. But what you gain from Google is that a lot of users know it," said Matt McNight, president of LMN Solutions, Herndon, Va., another one of Google's chosen partners.

Google's ubiquity in Web search means that it has been well-tested for business use, according to some partners. But one large integrator said he sees "cognitive dissonance" in Google's attempt.

"Google wants to have more of the 'dark' data in their search space. Corporations want to get better targeting from search without opening up information boundaries that are not as good as they should be once you&re inside the firewall. Good ideas here, but actual implementation will be a bear," said the integrator, who requested anonymity.

"If the enterprise market really does buy in, it will be great for SIs and VARs--lots of data cleanup, security architecture. I remain skeptical, but no question this is an area that the majors--IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo--are all targeting," he said.

Other partners love the fact that Google, unlike IBM and Microsoft, does not field its own services group.

Girouard plays that card. "Why partner with Google? We don't offer any professional services ourselves. The good thing is we ship, and people have it running in days," he said. "But as [customers] want Google search to go into other silos of data, you get beyond our expertise. That's a real goal for us-- to help customers entrench our products and make the search more comprehensive."

LMN Solutions, an integrator specializing in federal government, work is another Google taker. "We think we can offer services around their product, including advanced customization and connecting it to systems that carry heavy security requirements," McNight said.

Partners said the $3,000 Google Mini is a no-brainer buy for many smaller companies. The Google Appliance, which is targeted at larger companies, ranges from $30,000 to $600,000.

Details on the partner program, which costs $10,000 per year, can be found at this Google site.

This story was updated Friday with information on the Google partner site.