OVER the past decade Google has become the undisputed leader of web search. But its $110 billion stock market value is based not on just on how far it has come, but on just how far it can go.
Today, the bulk of its $7 billion annual revenues is derived from its AdWords and AdSense advertising programmes – the former are the sponsored links that surround a search query and the latter are content-aware ads that can be generated on anyone’s website.
But its next target for rapid growth lies in a completely different direction: Google wants to become a serious search provider within the enterprise. And one way it intends to take on the established enterprise search vendors, such as Autonomy and FAST, is through its newly upgraded search appliances, the Google OneBox and the Google Mini box.
According to Matthew Glotzbach, head of enterprise products at Google, the OneBox is about making search the application. “Results are often lost because the search function has failed to reach into all the applications in the enterprise,” he says.
Google’s enterprise search strategy is twofold. The first is through creating partnerships with many of the established enterprise software vendors, such as Oracle, Cognos, SAS and Salesforce.com, and getting these vendors to incorporate search interfaces into their existing or newly developed technology stacks.
The second is by getting developers to create plug-ins and application program interfaces (APIs) to enable search of other products, using the Google Enterprise Developer programme. This method will lead to users being able to search products such as Microsoft’s Exchange Server or IBM’s Lotus Notes – both of whom are not programme partners – from Google.
Angela Ashenden, a senior analyst at technology consultants Ovum, says that Google’s approach will help it to further establish its web-brand and enterprise brand. In particular, the developer programme will encourage buy-in from the staff responsible for implementing search functions within the enterprise, she says.
But opinion is divided, particulary among the more established enterprise search vendors.
What people need to understand is that high-end enterprise search isn’t about ‘search’ per se, says Ali Riaz, president and CFO at enterprise search expert Fast Search & Transfer (FAST). It’s about enabling a new generation of business applications that are built on search technology and this creates a new set of demands that web search vendors just can’t seem to grasp, he says.
“At the end of the day, you have to wonder if enterprises will want to entrust their business-critical enterprise search infrastructure to a media company,” he says.
Google recently learnt this truth. Last month online retailer Amazon failed to renew its contract with the search company for technology to power the Amazon ‘A9’ search engine, choosing instead to go with Microsoft’s Windows Live technology. That provided some good news for Microsoft which has Google firmly in its sights following Google’s announcement about its new software product suite for PCs, including online word processing.
As Tammy Alairys, global lead of information management services at consultancy firm Accenture, says anything Google does will have an impact because of its market presence and global branding.
“What’s interesting is that in the Google view of the world information is information, and it doesn’t matter where it resides, it should be searchable,” she says. “Some of the challenges they are going to run into are where companies are looking for a much richer set of functionality that Google doesn’t offer yet.”
But this will not be an obstacle for long. It will only be a matter of time before Google offers an integrated desktop, enterprise and web-based search facility, says Alairys.