Google Search Appliance Woos, But Does It Wow?

Yesterday, Google announced the latest version of its search appliance, GSA 6.0, to great fanfare. As usual, their emphasis was on scale: they’re pushing a distributed architecture that lets them “push it to a new realm: billions”. It’s a nice sound bite, and it played well to the press.

The few analysts who commented about it were somewhat more critical. Matthew Brown from Forrester said, “They’re coming to market so late, with requirements that were established years and years ago. They’ve reached parity with where the market was four or five years ago.” Adriaan Bloem from CMS Watch was even harsher, assessing many of Google’s claims as exaggerated and requiring a complexity at odds with their positioning as a plug-and-play appliance.

Given my role at Endeca, I’m in no position to be objective. But I’ll share my impressions, which you can take with the appropriate grain of salt. We don’t encounter Google much as a competitor; FAST and Autonomy are still more likely to show up with us on prospective customers’ short lists. And, while I have met happy GSA customers, I’ve met many more enterprise buyers who scoff when I suggest the GSA as a candidate solution for them (yes, that’s why I’m not in sales). Also, my recent experience of seeing how Google positions the GSA was less than persuasive. There is still a widespread impression that Google is not serious about this market segment.

Of course, the market will decide, and a data-driven company like Google will surely track the success of its efforts quantitatively. But for now, I don’t feel that Google’s announcement has changed the competitive landscape. As always, I’m curious to hear others’ opinions.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

2 replies on “Google Search Appliance Woos, But Does It Wow?”

There is still a widespread impression that Google is not serious about this market segment.

My impression is not so much that they’re not serious — because I think they are — as they are perhaps a little.. how shall I say.. single-minded or narrowly constructive in what they believe constitutes a good solution to the problem. They have, and have explicitly expressed, this genuine belief that enterprise search should work exactly like web search (i.e. search as nothing more than known-item, one-box lookup). I’ve heard them state this in their promotional materials. I’ve heard them make this claim at the Office 2.0 conferences that I’ve been to, and at the AIIM conference as well.

Ironically, the thing that made Google web search so much better than all the others back in 1998 at the known-item/lookup task is the very thing that is not available in an Enterprise context (PageRank). So right off the bat that should be a clue that Enterprise search should not really be the same as web search. And when I talked 1-on-1 at the AIIM conference with the head of Google’s Enterprise division about the relationship between web-style precision search, and PageRank-less Enterprise search, he didn’t have any good answer (“We use hundreds of features to determine relevance..”)

He just repeated the mantra that office users want search to perform exactly the same way that web search performs.

That’s the “googly” way, the “googly” philosophy.

I just don’t know if it’s true.


Having managed GSAs since 2003 on our university campus I can say without a doubt that our users expect the GSA to perform exactly like the web search big brother. Jeremy’s statement that PageRank is missing from the GSA is enlightening and frightening at the same time. I’ll have to do some additional research on this as it will finally answer some questions I’ve had. When Google upgraded from the 3.x software to the 4.x software (2007?), something went drastically wrong and enterprise search results haven’t been up to par since.


Comments are closed.