Google is releasing the latest version of its Search Appliance today, which it says will allow companies to perform Google-type searches on billions of documents.

That’s a dramatic increase from the last version, which allowed customers to search up to 10 million documents. And that improvement isn’t just because Google made the individual search appliances more powerful — though it is offering a new, higher-end search appliance for searching up to 30 million documents. The real breakthrough is what Google has dubbed “GSA to the n” (i.e., Google Search Appliance to the nth power) architecture, which allows multiple search appliances to be connected in a single, unified environment.

A company could previously buy multiple search appliances, of course, but that meant each set of documents had to be searched separately. The new architecture means you can search all the documents in all the appliances from a single search bar. That means there’s no upper limit on documents searched, theoretically (though a company might run out of space for those cheese-shaped boxes), easing pressure on Google to keep up with the ever-growing amount of data stored by large companies. That also means workers can search documents across departments, or even across multiple geographic locations.

Nitin Mangtani, Google’s senior product manager for enterprise search, says the company now has more than 25,000 customers for its search appliance, including NASA. (It had 20,000 in August.) Despite the economy, interest remains strong he says, because — just as Google’s public web search makes web surfers more productive — the Google Search Appliance leads to easily measured improvements in worker productivity.

Competitors include Autonomy and Microsoft-owned Fast.

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