Google Goes Business Class

Google announced a new hardware and software solution for businesses on Monday: it's a yellow box full of Google goodness. It uses their algorithms and methodologies to traverse intranet documents. You can get the lite version ($20,000, model GB-1001) that handles up to 150,000 documents (approximately) and can process about 60 queries per minute. The super-sized version in a rack ($250K+, model GB-8008, which is eight GB-1001's) can handle millions of document and 750 queries per minute sustained, with peaks of 1,000 qpm (new term to learn).

This new hardware/software combo puts Google in competition with internal-indexing firms as well as their search-engine comrades who have offered business software solutions, like AltaVista. Having Googleware in-house may prove tempting to many businesses whose IT, marketing, and executive employees already perform all of their searches every day via Google's Web engine.

The Google Search Appliance, as they term it, rotates brand inwards, like watching your eyes roll backwards in your head. Marketers may hurt when they see how a public service offered for free powers identical private services.

FAST/AllTheWeb.com has been using this model for some time, but with less branding success despite the high quality of their search results. FAST (traded on the Oslo stock exchange) runs the AllTheWeb.com as its public face to demonstrate new technologies. It offers these same technologies as a hosted service, an in-house service, or shrinkwrapped software. Google is now challenging FAST through the brand.

The Google devices can be used as public facing search engines indexing a company's documents, or as private, intranet search engines. Google spokesperson Nate Tyler confirmed that administrators can build different collections for different searches (products, marketing, whole site, etc.), as well as use templates for customizing the output.

Tyler also added that the templates can be built as XSLT documents, allowing the use of structured XML template generators for managing the output style. You can also take the raw XML output and work with it, too, which opens up a wide array of possibilities of combining Google's search output with other intranet or Internet services. (XSLT is a whole other ball of wax; the new QuarkXPress 5.0 can generate XSLT documents with great ease, despite the program's lack of other new features.)

True to Google's Web nature, the appliance doesn't mount directories and recursively search. Instead it follows Web paths provided to it. Tyler pointed out that internal directories can easily be traversed by mounting a directory via a Web server which Google points to. (Pretty efficient in its own way, and it relies on HTTP and throttling or other internal controls at that level instead of hammering file servers.)

Some folks at Slashdot and elsewhere expressed relief at Google's new product release: they'll finally have a revenue stream, these folks said, besides advertising. In fact, Google has quite publicly been providing hosted search services for a variety of large companies, and th revenue from these ventures has driven them towards what the the privately-held company has been intimating is either a current pro-forma-style profit, or a near-term actual profit.