Google Enterprise: Is There a Poison Apple in Paradise?

Stephen Arnold's picture


The Backupify Blog published an infographic about Google Apps. The focus was on the enter­prise. The infographic presented a number of facts about the success of Google Apps in the enter­prise. If you want to view the infographic, navigate to Not surprisingly, Backupify reports that big customers generate most of the revenue. The most surprising item of information was this statement:  


'If you remove educational institutions, the largest industry on Google Apps is the technology industry.' 


One of the highest profile products offered by Google’s enterprise unit is the GSA or Google Search Appliance. In a meeting late last year, one “expert” told me that Google has somewhere between 55,000 and 60,000 licensees. Google does not provide details about how many of its search appliances it has placed. These estimates, offered by Google watchers, may understate the number of units in the field. 


The reason is that a single GSA as the Google Search Appliance is named requires another GSA for fail over. Install the GSA in a document-rich environment with a large number of settings, the GSA can be installed in more sophisticated clustered configurations. As a result, it is difficult to figure out if an estimate is on the money or off the mark. 


Whatever the figure, an enterprise search solution with more than 20,000 licensees is impressive. Autonomy hit that mark after the unit of Hewlett Packard acquired Verity in 2005. I know of no other vendor of enterprise search who has surpassed Autonomy’s installed base. Google has become the largest vendor of enterprise search solutions in the world. I can hear howls of protest from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. I am not sure that these firms’ assertions about their customer count are solid. IBM recycles Lucene, the open source search system. Almost any IBM product with the prefix “Omni” includes a search function. But giving away an open source solution is not the same as billing 55,000 customers. Microsoft has reworked its search solutions into odd ball acronyms like FS4SP, which means Fast Search for SharePoint. Fast Search is the default search system for many SharePoint customers, and I am reluctant to include a default search system bun­dled with a product which may itself be bundled with Microsoft Office client access licenses as having a market footprint in the millions. SharePoint allegedly has more than 100 million users, which is a number also largely unsubstantiated by a reputable third party. Oracle includes search with every relational database and most of the company’s other products and services.


Oracle recently acquired natural language processing vendor InQuira, the ecommerce search system Endeca, and the RightNow search technology. Oracle, therefore, can claim PL/SQL, Oracle Text, Secure Enterprise Search 11g, TripleHop, InQuira, Endeca, and RightNow as search systems. My hunch is that almost any number Oracle supporters assert is going to be a big one. 


In the world of enterprise search, untainted by giant firms giving away search, Google may be the number one enterprise search vendor in terms of installations. But is Google the number one ven­dor of enterprise search and content processing solutions? My answer to this question is, “No.” 


One reason is that Google has such a media footprint that its revisionist approach is often over­looked. One example is the shift in Google’s privacy policies to a Google privacy policy. As one wit said at lunch last week, “All your info are belong to us,” a clever rework of the video game catchphrase. 


There is an exception. The Washington Post, “where Washington and business intersect,” reported “Google: New Policy Doesn’t Supersede Enterprise, Government Contracts.” 84Mv3 The Washington Post explains that the new Google privacy policy is selective, more or less along the lines of Twitter’s censoring or filtering tweets in certain countries. The Washington Post reported: 


In an interview with The Washington Post, [Jeff] Gould [security researcher] said it is encouraging that Google issued a statement that addressed his concerns about the policy’s potential implications for government clients. But, he said, he would still like to see all consumer technology companies with government cloud offerings — including Google, IBM and Microsoft — introduce separate privacy policies for government clients in addition to the private terms laid in out contracts.


This, he said, would draw a clear line between their consumer and public sector products. 


Organizations wondering “what will Google do” may find the approaches of less fluid services, hardware, and software vendors more stable. Google has been eliminating products and services, changing terms of service, and blocking application programming interfaces. In an organization, such fluidity may be a benefit to companies such as Microsoft and SAP. Though far from fault free, both of these firms are less mercurial in my opinion than Google. 


Second, in the marketing blitz in which Google is engaged, the company is advertising its search service in national newspapers in the US and on television (the “vast wasteland”, as Newton Min­now observed). Google’s public relations grip on certain Web information services generates such announcements as “Google Enterprise: 5,000 New Customers a Day.” The number is a significant one. Autonomy, which broke through the 20,000 customer barrier when it purchased Verity, has been growing via acquisition. Google, if the factoid is true, is chugging along with 35,000 new enterprise customers a week, 140,000 a month, or 1,680,000 a year.


The growth rate is astounding, but Google recently reported financial results which disappointed Wall Street. In fact, Google’s numbers looked even smaller in the wake of Apple’s earnings of $13.87 a share, up 116 percent from a year earlier, on sales of $46.33 billion, up 73 percent. 


Apple poses another challenge. Computerworld referenced a Forrester Research report which asserted that Apple, not Google, has broken Microsoft’s grip on the enter­prise. What has Apple said about this newfound enterprise success? Not much. Google is talking about taking over the enterprise; Apple seems to be seeping into the enterprise and gaining more traction in that market than Google. Computerwold is riding hard the Apple in the enterprise angle. “Will This Be the Year of Apple in the Enterprise?” In a 3,200 word article, the answer was, “Yes.” I know a number of Fortune 1000 professionals who use Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and online services. I know a handful of professionals who rely on Google enterprise solutions and services. Is Google talking more than delivering?


Probably not, because if the 1.68 million new enterprise customers continues for another five years, Google will have almost half of the US commercial market. That is probably Google’s fervent hope.

Google offers a wide array of enterprise services, including an enterprise email service which incorporates Postini’s security and back up methods. Google Apps compete with Microsoft’s Office product, and there are dozens of Google partners and resellers who develop applications for Google’s various offerings. But for me, Google’s enterprise product to watch is the Google Search Appliance. I view the GSA as a pricing and service bellwether. 


As I reported several months ago, the GSA solution becomes an expensive proposition when doc­ument collections exceed 20 million objects and growth in new content is adding 40 to 60 percent new content every three months. I ran a query on Google for “Google Search Appliance” on Jan­uary 28, 2011, to get a sense of what the buzz around the “search toaster”. The system dutifully reported five news stories. The results reveal a surprising fact: No one seems to care much about the Google Search Appliance. For example, the first hit is to Google’s own product page at http:// I would have expected this link in the main Google index, but on the Google News service, Google is promoting its own product. There is no indication that this link is a house advertisement. Nope, the link is positioned as news. The next four hits are non-English Web sites.


Perhaps the day on which I ran my query was an anomaly, but I received similarly sparse cover­age when I searched,, and the “river of news” on I do not want to jump to conclusions, but I think the Google Search Appliance is not generating much excitement among the technology news services. Out of sight in marketing is out of mind in my experience. 


The Google Search Appliance offers a range of attractive features. Now at Version 6.8, GSA delivers to an enterprise: 


•   “Active-Active” - This unusually named enhancement provides high availability by direct­ing search traffic to multiple appliances. Note that multiple Google Search Appliances must be licensed in order to make use of this function. The more documents processed and indexed by a GSA the higher the license fee. 

•   Cloud Connect - integrated search with Google Apps, Site Search and Twitter. Google and Twitter have an increasingly contentious relationship so this integration may require close monitoring. See “Why Google and Twitter Need to Kiss and Make Up” 8QTAf which provides some insight into yet another troubled relationship between Google and a partner. 

•   Dynamic Navigation - filter search results with specific metadata attributes. The inclusion of faceted search requires that the content have rich metadata. Third party components which perform entity extraction and other types of content enrichment may be necessary in order to permit the GSA to deliver what I characterize as “Endeca like” features. 

•   People Search - Search profile information about people in your organization

•   SharePoint 2010 - Search all content within SharePoint 2010 out of the box. If you are a SharePoint licensee, you will want to verify that the GSA delivers the type of information access appropriate for your organization. The pricing of the GSA option depends on the number of documents processed. A document inventory and estimated change rate and growth factor are necessary in order to project GSA license fees for SharePoint implemen­tations. Document counts can be a challenge in a large SharePoint environment. 


The GSA can be used from Intranet search or Web site search. Google offers a cloud alternative to site search. You can get information about that service The fees for Google Site Search are often much less than for the Google Search Appliance. My view of this is that Google itself is competing internally for customers. Under the stewardship of Larry Page, Google has a number of administrative and management challenges, and it is clear in the area of Web site search and the Google Search Appliance, incongruity is evident. 


I have visited a number of organizations with a Google Search Appliance. My work suggests that the GSA exists alongside other enterprise search systems. Google does not provide a breakdown of the market share each version of the GSA has. I see several possible trajectories for the GSA. The product can be orphaned; that is, engineering support is cut back and the basic units which are available from a Google supplier are made available but not the focus of aggressive research and development efforts. The product line can be discontinued with the search services shifted to the Google cloud.


Google is offering this type of cloud solution for Google Site Search, so it would be easy for the company to kill the GSA hardware. Third, Google pumps money into the Google Search Appliance product line.


Features and functions such as enhanced metadata tagging, con­tent enrichment, and additional application programming interfaces would become available. Third parties would be incented to develop enhancements to the GSA. Integration with mobile devices would be extended. Inter-operability among other Google products and services would be recoded, made stable, and enhanced on a more aggressive schedule. Finally, additional product and engineering support would be available to the tens of thousands of GSA licensees who at this time must rely on authorized partners for after-sales service. 


Google’s new vice president of enterprise is Arnit Singh. In an interview with Computerworld UK, January 19, 2012, asserted: 

"I have a team of deployment folks, but the goal for us is to build this ecosystem, so we have eight to 10 qualified, certified product experts in the partner channel that comes [sic] in and implements [sic] the products and gives [sic] advice around change and so on. We've also built a lot of tools over time that just can obviously take your old data and convert it into the new data. Our clear strategy here is to continue to grow that ecosystem at a pace that can sustain them. And we are doing the same thing on the Cloud platform side, we are training them on delivering really great outcomes with our platform because that is a build option." 


With 50,000 plus Google Search Appliance customers and 5,000 new enterprise customers per day, that works out to a lot of internal work Google must do. In the paradise of Google Enterprise, Apple may be the forbidden fruit.

By Stephen E Arnold 


*Mr. Arnold is a consultant. More information about his practice is available at and in his Web log at His most recent monograph is The New Landscape of Search, which is available from