With the end of the Google Mini Search Appliance, where else can enterprises turn for their search needs?

Google has announced the end of the Google Mini search appliance. They also stopped selling it as an enterprise search solution as of July 31st, 2012. This had previously been offered as a lower cost search engine solution but Google feels they offer other products that do a better job than the Mini was able to do. With the Mini search option no longer in place, it is time to get the word out that other options need to be determined and implemented.

What Does this Mean for Current Mini Clients?

Google will continue to provide technical support to Mini customers for the duration of their contracts.
If the Google Mini box fails before the end of support, Google will still honor the support contract and replace that Mini, which is a bright blue piece of hardware.

Clients can also continue to use the Google Mini beyond the duration of their contracts. However, there will not be any further box replacements, service updates or support from Google. If the box fails after the support contract expiration, there would surely be an inexcusable down time while a replacement search solution is determined and installed.

What enterprise search options are available?

In regards to the enterprise search market, Google's primary mission is Search. It is an overall market that Google is in. They have no plans on exiting any aspect of the Search market, including enterprise search. Other non-Google enterprise search solutions are available, of course -- such as Microsoft Search Server Express.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to talk further about two of Google's replacement options only -- Google Site Search and Google Search Appliance. There is a third option as well for online retailers, Google Commerce Search.

Google Site Search

Google Site search is a software as a service (SaaS) product that is relatively inexpensive and easy to use. It is the same as a Google.com search but within a given website. As such, Site Search is only for external websites and public content. It will not work for any type of secure or internal content. It uses the same Google.com crawlers that index the rest of the internet so any level of security will not work.

On the plus side, there isn't any hardware or software to install or maintain. It can be more cost effective than Mini for sites with low to moderate search volumes. It allows for unlimited content and pricing is based on queries. Currently it starts at about US$ 100 per year for 20,000 annual queries and goes up from there: 50,000 annual queries is US$ 250 per year and 500,000 annual queries is US$ 2000 per year.

Using the Google bots also means that Site Search is not for rapidly changing content. Twenty-four hours is the service level agreement limit for indexing, but it typically updates quicker than that. It is not for faceted or dynamic navigation. This type of navigation enables users to narrow results from a search based on attributes such as an age group, city, company, price range, etc.

Site Search allows for customized branding and a customizable look and feel. Google branding is optional and the Google Ads can be turned off. Certain pages can also be excluded.

Who should use it:

Companies where the Mini was previously providing generic website search on sites with low-to-moderate volumes should now use Site Search. Examples of sites using Google Site Search include Sprint, Travelocity, the California Government, ConEd and TechSmith.

Google Search Appliance (GSA)

Google Search Appliance (GSA) is Google's leading enterprise search solution. It is an appliance model that is hardware, software and support all in one package. It has built-in flexibility to meet almost any search need and works with any information. GSA is for internal, secure or external applications and sites.

GSA is a more powerful and supportable platform than the Mini. This is especially true in the area of relevance algorithms. Relevance is to Search, like Santa is to Christmas. Google employs thousands of software engineers who continually work on their relevance algorithms. GSA is able to keep up to date with these advancements made through Google.com, which allows for the constant improvement of a user's search experience.

With the GSA, Google claims relevance right out of the box that increases each day in use. Their search actually gets smarter over time. They also claim a competitor's relevance is at its best on Day 1, and degrades from that point. Hardware wise, the GSA is more robust and scalable than the Mini, and offers RAID support.

Other GSA features include:

  • Key match. Highlights preferred content
  • Query suggestions (auto completion)
  • Dynamic navigation -- As described above, it allows users to filter search results based on different criteria.
  • People search -- Locates people with expertise and integrates Sharepoint 2010 profile information.
  • Automatic spellcheck -- Learns your company specific content.
  • User added results -- Internal users can suggest the best document for a particular search.

GSA can plug into virtually any enterprise for indexing: any CMS, databases, wikis, 3rd Party systems such as Hummingbird, SAP KM, Lotus Notes / Domino, MS Sharepoint, EMC Documentum, etc. All of this is in a secure way so users see only what they are allowed to see. GSA can use most security protocols available.

Because of these advanced features, the price tag is quite a big higher than Google Site Search. GSA starts at US$ 30,000 but currently there are discounts for Mini clients. Other incentives are possible so the best bet is to contact a Google rep and in their words, “the earlier the better.”

Google will argue that Google's total cost of ownership -- hardware, software, configuration, implementation, maintenance and license, is less than the competition's. Google also claims that the other solutions are more like tool kits, not full solutions, and are complex in their setup and deployment.

The Google Search Appliance is offered at two or three year license points, which include support, hardware replacement coverage and software updates. When the contract period ends, Google will work with you to renew the contract and provide a new Google Search Appliance, otherwise the Google Search Appliance expires and no longer searches or serves data.

Examples of companies using Google Search Appliance include Reuters, Fox News, Discover and Gartner -- plus thousands of intranet sites that are unavailable to the public.

So, once a new search solution is determined and implemented, what do you do with the Mini? Being a flat, bright blue piece of hardware, one Google staffer's recommendation was it would make a fine coffee table. And with so many of their services and revenues being cloud-based, who wouldn't want a keepsake piece of hardware with Google emblazoned on it?