Wednesday, April 19, 2006

OneBox to Rule Them All: Google Aggregates Enterprise Application Content via Search Appliance

Several majors cover Google's introduction of the OneBox for Enterprise, a new service integrated into its enterprise-oriented Google Search Appliance that allows users to access content stored in major enterprise application platforms. Initial partners providing OneBox interfaces to Google's search tool include Oracle, Cisco Systems, Salesforce.com, SAS, and Cognos. The InfoWorld article on the announcement has perhaps the best take on it, emphasizing that this is but one element of a broader enterprise campaign that Google is rolling out to get its search capabilities more firmly embedded in enterprise markets. The OneBox approach is to extract not just text but key facts and data from enterprise application databases, providing discrete presentations of this content similar to the results in its consumer search engine for weather in a local community or other key data points that complement text searches. As a Cognos rep notes in an Enterprise Systems article Google OneBox is a great way to expose business intelligence content to people who haven't been consumers of business intelligence applications - a somewhat backhand admission that IT-heavy BizIntel solutions have not always been cost-effective for the great majority of enterprise users.

For users of Salesforce.com the OneBox interfaces are available to vendors providing AppExchange modules, which includes of course premium content vendors. While this is a plus from a user perspective, in general the OneBox approach highlights the role of application providers in becoming new forces in enterprise publishing. Content aggregators are being trumped both by enterprise application developers and search engines in becoming general-purpose outlets for both premium and enterprise content. The issues of open Web access that publishers had hoped to escape in enterprise solutions are not really easily escaped when the Googles of the world are ready to treat all sources of content agnostically via tools that manage enterprise applications, publications and personal content sources with similar importance.

At the same time Google is delivering a hip-check to other enterprise search engine providers, arguing that the "80 percent" solution can include the 80 percent of enterprise applications that absorb much of an organization's most critical content along with unstructured sources. OneBox may not address some of the Google Search Appliance's fundamental weaknesses but it is building a huge reservoir of strength that can leverage content from enterprise, media and personal content sources with familiar and effective results.
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