Microsoft, EMC Eye Enterprise Search

The most obvious example is Microsoft, whose Windows Vista will sport new desktop search capabilities. Within the new Windows Start menu, users will be able to search the contents of a document by typing a few keywords.

Other vendors eyeing enterprise search include EMC and IBM, and they&'re working not only on software but on hardware as well, with search appliances that offer potentially high margins and services opportunities. Google is in that game already with its Search Appliances and Minis. And because true enterprise search also requires support for legacy distributed data, that means Google, established enterprise tools suppliers and start-ups will be recruiting new partners to bring those offerings to market.

One such start-up is O-Ya, Scottsdale, Ariz., which officially got off the ground last month. Its first product, DeepSearch 100, is an appliance that&'s similar in concept to the Google Mini but also enables business customers to index specific internal resources. Because the appliance and software can be customized for each customer, O-Ya is billing it as a Private Search Device.

“We index all the desktop PCs and file servers on your local network,” says Alan Steinberg, founder and a principal of O-Ya, which already has inked a distribution agreement with Avnet and is recruiting systems integrators. “We mount all of the shares within the PCs, as well as the materials and documents associated with them.”

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Steinberg says O-Ya&'s go-to-market strategy centers on developing a network of channel partners, the first of which, curiously, is big-box retailer CompUSA. The move has raised some eyebrows. “Our research says SMBs don&'t do a huge amount of purchasing gear through retail outlets, but who knows?” says Forrester analyst Matt Brown.

Among O-Ya&'s other obstacles, according to Brown, is that it&'s an unknown company. “Google has plenty of ‘air cover&' from their brand,” he says. “They can experiment and put these products into the market.”

Speaking of which, Google itself is continuing its push into the enterprise. Its January agreement with EMC to link the storage vendor&'s ITS Federated Search Platform with the Google Desktop Enterprise—a free downloadable tool that lets individuals search their PCs for files—also fits with EMC&'s strategy of supporting third-party search tools, says Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing for the EMC Software Group. “We&'re expanding our offering in a way that [allows] end users [to] search another class of information sources—their own desktops,” he says.

But that&'s just the icing on the cake. Google says its two-year enterprise push via the Google Search Appliance is gaining momentum. Might complete Documentum-Google Search Appliance integration be somewhere on the horizon?

“We do definitely see other opportunities to work with EMC and Documentum down the road,” says Matt Glotzbach, Google&'s senior product manager for enterprise products.

Since launching its enterprise partner program just a few months ago, Google has signed 40 ISVs and solution providers, Glotzbach says, and is in negotiations with some large systems integrators as well.

“The demand has been amazing—from large VARs and various ISVs to start-up companies,” Glotzbach says. “The program has been a runaway success.”

Even so, the enterprise business is a mere blip on Google&'s radar screen given the company&'s success in its core markets: public search engines and advertising. According to Google&'s most recently announced financials, for fiscal year 2005, revenue from the company&'s noncore businesses, including the enterprise, was insignificant.

“In the grand scheme of things, [the enterprise] business is less than 1 percent of their revenue,” Forrester&'s Brown says. “And the bigger it gets, the lower their margins will be.”

The Grand Organizer

So the question for Google is this: Why bother getting into the enterprise space at all? “Google&'s mission as a company is to organize the world&'s information,” Glotzbach says. “The Google enterprise mission is to bring that technology [to customers] wherever applicable.”

As it stands, Google&'s presence is already becoming a potentially disruptive force in the overall enterprise search market, applying cost-model pressure to companies such as Autonomy, Endeca, Convera and Fast Search and Transfer.

“Google is really changing the rules around search,” says Brown, noting that the likes of Convera and Autonomy have competed historically on the depth of their products&' functionality, the number of back-end data repositories to which they connect and their ability to customize and tweak searches.

But Nicole Eagan, Autonomy&'s chief marketing officer, dismisses Google as a threat and questions its potential success in the enterprise. “Google is very much about basic keyword search capabilities,” she says. “It&'s very simplistic at its root. We do believe that part of the market is becoming commoditized, and Google is helping accelerate that commoditization.”

Enterprises need more sophisticated search technology that uses pattern recognition, incuding the abilty to sort through the contents of e-mail, instant messages, and audio and video clips, Eagan says. Autonomy, she adds, also offers a low-end keyword-based search product in the form of software, rather than an appliance.

“There are issues with bringing an appliance into a highly secure environment,” Eagan says.

But that&'s not deterring Google or O-Ya. And Google&'s Glotzbach perceives partners as the key to broadening the presence of search appliances.

“We saw the opportunity to serve the customer base better by reaching out to the partner community,” he says.

One such partner, Ltech Consulting, a Hoboken, N.J.-based company that provides application systems integration, deployed the Google Search Appliance at Career Innovations, which runs job-search sites for pharmaceutical clients. Ed Laczynski, president of Ltech, says only two engagements have resulted from the company&'s alliance with Google so far, but many deals are still in the making.

“We&'re learning what leads are truly qualified and what we should spend our time on,” Laczynski says. “We have some things in the hopper, and we&'re working with some of our existing clients, as well as some [that Google] refers to us.”