Fighting free with free

IBM and Yahoo are pulling a Google on Google. The duo has announced that they’ll start giving away a basic version of IBM’s OmniFind software for searching corporate documents, undercutting one of the few products that Google actually charges for. Aimed at smaller companies, the free software can index up to 500,000 documents. Running on a server, it uses a customizable, Yahoo-like browser interface and integrates Yahoo web search results. Google currently charges $9,000 for a specialized search appliance – a piece of hardware called Google Mini – that can index up to 300,000 documents. The IBM-Yahoo offering undermines the market viability of the Google box in its current form, or at least at its current price, and also poses a threat to the efforts of corporate search specialists like Autonomy to expand into the small-business market.

It also provides another small bit of evidence that, in an age of cheap computing, hardware wants to be software and software wants to be free.

8 thoughts on “Fighting free with free

  1. Jason Berberich

    Thanks for passing this info along Nick. This is the first I’ve even heard of IBM OmniFind, so I suppose this technique is working as planned…

    So, in this age where software wants to be free, do you think real profitability will come from delivering it as a service?

  2. Bertil

    Do you have any idea of how much this “free” app would cost, hardware-wise? Just to get an idea of the profit margin of Google Mini (excluding development cost).

  3. Jason Berberich

    I did a little bit of looking on the Google appliance hardware, and its not entirely clear. You can purchase the Google Mini on a sliding scale based on the number of documents indexed:

    • 50,000 – $1,995
    • 100,000 – $2,995
    • 200,000 – $5,995
    • 300,000 – $8,995

    The Google Mini hardware is likely very cheap as it uses a couple of Pentium III processors, 2GB of memory, and a 120 GB hard drive (reference). I don’t have any idea of how much that hardware runs today, but I’m sure they’re still making a decent profit on the lowest tier of that scale above.

    The larger/more expensive Google Search Appliance starts at $30,000 to index 500,000. In the latest Infoworld review, they noted that the GSA is now a rebranded Dell PowerEdge 2950 with two dual-core Intel Xeon 5140 (2.33GHz) processors and 16GB of RAM. Spec’ed out on Dell’s site, that would run in the $7-8k range depending on the size of the hard drives, etc.

    It looks like OmniFind’s recommended hardware for production environments is roughly comparable to what the GSA needs:

    • 2 3Ghz processors
    • 2 GB of RAM
    • 250 GB mirrored hard drives
  4. Sid Steward

    “… in an age of cheap computing, hardware wants to be software and software wants to be free.”

    This line seems more suitable for describing VMware Server. It lets you create virtual machines, lets you install VMware’s all-important client tools, and organizes/plays virtual machines very nicely. And it’s free of charge. I’ve had a lot of fun with mine.

    If you’re thinking about hacking a virtual machine together with VMware Player, forget it. Use VMware Server.

  5. pwb

    Ordinarily you couldn’t pay me to use IBM software but this product actually looks pretty good.

    BTW, anyone else have trouble with the TypeKey login system? I usually have to log out of TypeKey and then log back in to get it to let me put in comments. And it never works through FeedDemon.

  6. James

    IBM Omnifind Yahoo edition seems to work fine on my desktop. Single 3.2 ghz + 512 Ram. It does eat up the ram though, so my machine becomes pretty unresponsive, however the actual searching remains snappy. My guess is that the specs they are giving as minimum are just if you want something that will support a decent number of users…

    Or in other words small installations could probably use this software on a reasonably low end machine.

    I’m also interested that I haven’t heard many people commenting on Yahoo’s involvement, I seems to me that it is an attempt to get business users familiar with the Yahoo UI, and to make it quicker to move from a intranet search to a Yahoo websearch than to a google search. If Omnifind does get a big uptake it could be a very good move by Yahoo…

  7. Tony Byrne

    What’s even more ironic about this new product is that — while it sports IBM’s vaunted OmniFind search brand — it does not actually use OmniFind software. IBM is using Lucene (an open source and free search engine) with some IBM wrapping for this offering.

    So you could add: free software wants to be marketed…

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