Google has been cagey about the hardware that runs its Search Appliance but this week said it will start using Dell servers to power the product later this year.
Analysts say that the deal could be related to an agreement the two companies made just two weeks ago and that it could indicate that the Google Search Appliance technology is maturing.
The Google Search Appliance is an integrated hardware and software device that companies can use to allow workers to search through enterprise data. While Google says that the current appliances run on Intel chips and commodity components, it hasn't revealed other specifics about the hardware.
The move to an off-the-shelf server could indicate that the Search Appliance has advanced. "The Google technology maybe has reached the maturity point where they can rely on standardized server technology," said Nathaniel Martinez, an analyst with IDC.
The agreement could also be related to an announcement in late May that Dell would start shipping computers with the Google desktop, toolbar, search engine and homepage already installed. Dell had previously preloaded such features from Microsoft. Dell may have asked Google to commit to buying a certain number of servers as part of that agreement, Guy Creese, an analyst at Burton Group, speculated.
Some customers might be pleased to see the Dell name on the appliance. "It would make me more confident because Dell is a recognized brand," said Andrew Brown, a current user of Google Mini and chief executive officer of Toolfetch.com, a Web site that sells construction supplies and tools. His company has standardized on Dell computers and servers. Google Mini is the Google search appliance aimed at users that want to search 300,000 documents or less.
Dell profits and market share have dropped recently and the company has made some changes in both its computer and server product lines in an attempt to reverse those trends. Dell surprised industry observers when it said recently that it would start using Advanced Micro Devices Inc. processors in some of its servers. Dell had previously exclusively used Intel chips across its product line.
Dell spokeswoman Annette Condon wouldn't say which Dell server Google will use but confirmed that Google will standardize on Dell servers for the Search Appliance.
While revenue from Google's enterprise group are relatively small compared to advertising revenue, as of April, Google had 3,000 customers using the Search Appliance. "They've outstripped most of the enterprise search vendors out there," said Creese. He said most other search vendors are proud to say they've attracted 500 users.
Also, sales in Google's enterprise group are growing rapidly. Google reported in April that its enterprise group sales, which includes some Gmail and Google Earth services for enterprises, grew 100 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.
(Juan Carlos Perez in Miami contributed to this report. )