Google Search Appliance upgraded

Google has upgraded its Search Appliance, improving the capacity and performance of the device, which combines hardware and...

Google has upgraded its Search Appliance, improving the capacity and performance of the device, which combines hardware and software to provide in a box the search functionality employed by the website.

Introduced in early 2002, the appliance is aimed at companies, educational institutions and government agencies that want to make their sites searchable using Google technology. For example, a university might buy a Google Search Appliance to provide search capabilities for its student and employee intranets, as well as its public websites.

The appliance can now index more documents, do so more intelligently and perform more queries per minute, said Dave Girouard, Google's enterprise unit general manager. The latest version also features improved security and allows for collections of indexed documents to be partitioned with more flexibility.

"We launched this product quietly in 2002 and it has grown nicely and become a successful business for Google," he added. "This is our first major new upgrade of the product."

In terms of performance enhancements, the latest version can index as many as 1.5 million documents, which is five times as many as the first version, and execute 300 queries per minute.

It also features more intelligent and efficient document crawling. The first version crawled documents in batch fashion, meaning it would scan and index the entire collection of documents every time the administrator scheduled a refresh. The new version only scans and indexes documents that have changed since the last crawl, an improvement aimed to speed up the process and reduce consumption of bandwidth and processing power.

The latest version is continuously crawling the collection, which results in changes being indexed more promptly. Thus, with the first version, the Search Appliance would be configured to run a batch update once a day, or once every two days, which could delay changes until the update was run, while the new version detects changes soon after they are made.

Google also enhanced the product's security by improving its ability to prevent users from viewing documents they're not authorised to access. After executing a query, the upgraded product rounds up all the documents that contain the keywords and then filters those documents based on the user who made the query, showing only the documents that the user has permission to view.

The latest version of the Search Appliance is twice as tall as the first version because it has more powerful hardware, which in turn generates more heat and requires more space for cooling. That means it is 2U (3.5 inches) high, and 19 inches wide.

Google did not reveal which company makes the appliance's hardware. "It's commodity hardware - the same general hardware we use in our Google data centres," said Girouard.

A basic installation of the Search Appliance can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, allowing an IS department to have it running in a matter of hours, he said. Installations that involve deeper customisation will take longer to complete.

The product is sold as a standalone device under its GB 1001 model number. A GB 1001 with a capacity of 150,000 documents starts at $32,000, while one with the maximum capacity of 1.5 million documents costs $175,000. The new version of the GB 1001 is available now. Included in the price are two years of customer support.

The Search Appliance is also sold in preconfigured stacks of multiple GB 1001s. The GB 5005 is a stack of five devices, while the GB 8008 is a stack of 12 devices. Google pre-configures these stacked devices to work together.

Google did not have statistics for the performance improvements that the stacked products of the new version will offer. Prices for the stacked products are determined by the number of documents they can index.

Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service

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