Indiana portal goes googly for popular search engine

For seven years, Indiana’s government portal, at www.accessindiana.com, had used a search engine from Verity Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., to index billing information.

The award-winning site lets citizens renew vehicle license plates and registrations online and obtain other services.

But AccessIndiana general manager Candy Irven said there were limitations. For broader indexing, the portal staff would have had to coordinate how to weight or rank the most appropriate search results. “It would have taxed our human resources quite a bit,” she said.

Indiana employees often resorted to the Google.com search engine from Google Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., to search the portal, Irven said, because it returned more useful data.

So AccessIndiana traded Verity for the Google Search Appliance, an eight-layer Linux server system in a box.

Sound decision

“A search engine is sort of like a stereo system,” said John Piscitello, product manager for the appliance. “You can hear the differences.”

The GB1001 Google Search Appliance costs about $28,000 including two years’ worth of software updates and hardware support.

Google’s 200 engineers spent four years designing the search engine as “an extension of people’s minds,” Piscitello said. They mined data, indexed billions of pages and searched for relationships among sites. The algorithm is “baked into” the appliance, he said.

Irven said the search results pop up “the way a user would think they should be. It was literally plug and play. We didn’t have to do any of the tagging and weighting of information we would have had to do with other search engines.”

So far the Indiana staff “has not heard one single complaint,” she said.

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