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Google Broadens Its Business Offerings

Google unveils a "mini" search appliance aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, expanding the company's reach into the corporate market.

Google Inc. on Thursday unveiled a "mini" search appliance aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, expanding the company's reach into the corporate market.

The Google Mini, like its beefier relative the Google Search Appliance, searches data stores behind a company's intranet, or as the search engine for a public web site. The Mini searches up to 50,000 documents and supports more than 220 file types.

Before the latest release, the Mountain View, Calif., search giant offered enterprise product that was overkill in terms of features and power for SMBs.

"The Mini is addressing an underserved market," Robert Lerner, analyst for market researcher Current Analysis, said. "SMBs are a major growth area for a lot of technologies."

Global 2000 companies have been using search appliances for some time, so it's difficult to sell them something new, Lerner said. SMBs, on the other hand, are ready to buy.

"The Mini is a smart move," Lerner said.

In marketing the Mini, Google is claiming "easy installation and minimal administration." The product includes one year of support and product replacement, in cases of a major failure. The appliance is available through Google's online store and sells for a starting price of $4,995.

For the enterprise, Google released on Thursday a new version 4.2 of the Search Appliance, which is capable of searching up 15 million documents.

The device supports databases from Oracle Corp., IBM, Microsoft Corp. and Sybase Inc., as well as the open source My SQL. Connections are made through JDBC drivers supplied by the manufacturers, said Matthew Glotzbach, business product manager for Google.

The upgrade includes new application programming interfaces based on extensible markup language, or XML, for integration with control systems for network access. The product also uses a new XML-based API for drawing data from legacy systems, and supports the x509 standard for certificates used in authentication and encryption by many government agencies and enterprises.

Google is addressing a lot of needs of the enterprise with its latest upgrade, but "they still have a way to go before they compete head-to-head with Verity (Inc.) and other more mature enterprise solutions," Lerner said.

Areas where the appliance needs improvement include its taxonomy, classification and security features and its self-learning capabilities, Lerner said.

The Google Search Appliance starts at $32,000 for searching up to 150,000 documents. The price includes two years of support.

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