Google’s enterprise search: in the cloud & in a box

Google has changed the name the scope of its Website search it offers to Website owners that want a little more than simply to know that their site is being indexed by Google, but don’t want to go as far as buying one of its blue or yellow search appliances. 451 clients can read what we thought of it here.

Google has three levels of Website search to offer organizations – completely free but with no control as to which parts of your website are indexed and when, known as Custom Search Edition/AdSense for Search (CSE/AFS); the newly rebranded Google Site Search; and  the Google search appliances, which it sells in Mini and Search Appliance form factors, which can be used both for external-facing Website search as well as intranet search.

Google stopped issuing customer numbers for its appliances in October 2007. The number of organizations it had sold to at that point was about 10,000 customers. I suspect that number is around 11,500 now, though I don’t have any great methodology to back that up, I’m just extrapolating from previously-issued growth figures. That’s an extraordinary amount of organizations with a Google box.

To give some perspective, Autonomy has ~17,000 customers now. But the vast majority came from Verity. When Autonomy bought Verity in November 2005, Verity had about 15,000 customers (and Autonomy had about 1,000). But Verity got about 8,000 of those customers via its acquisition of Cardiff Software in February 2004. So in about 2.5 years Autonomy has added about 1,000 customer, but of course has done of lot of up-selling to its base and doesn’t play in the low-cost search business anymore (mainly because of Google).

The actual number of Google appliances sold is higher of course as many organizations have multiple appliances. I’ll never forget 18 months or so ago standing in  a room of a top 3 Wall Street investment bank with its top ~25 technologists gathered in a room and seeing about 6 of them put up their hands when asked who has a Google appliance – most of those weren’t known about to their boss or to each other.

But Google appliance proliferation is commonplace in large organizations. The things are so cheap and so relatively easy to install they are bought often under the radar of IT . The problem comes when times get tough (as they are in investment banking IT, that’s for sure) the organization wants to ring more out of the assets it has – even if it didn’t know it had those assets until relatively recently.

That’s why we strongly expect Google to come out with some sort of management layer this year to handle this sort of unintended (by the customer that is) proliferation. Watch this space.

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