Google released Google Search Appliance, GSA 7.0, in early October. Magnus Ebbesson and I joined the Google hosted pre sales conference in Zürich where we had some of the new functionality presented and what the future will bring to the platform. Google is really putting an effort into their platform, and it gets stronger for each release. Personally I tend to like hardware and security updates the most but I have to say that some of the new features are impressive and have great potential. I have had the opportunity to try them out for a while now.
In late November we held a breakfast seminar at the office in Gothenburg where we talked about GSA in general with a focus on GSA 7.0 and the new features. My impression is that the translate functionality is very attractive for larger enterprises, while the previews brings a big wow-factor in general. The possibility of configuring ACLs for several domains is great too, many larger enterprises tend to have several domains. The entity extraction is of course interesting and can be very useful; a processing framework would enhance this even further however.
It is also nice to see that Google is improving the hardware. The robustness is a really strong argument for selecting GSA.
It’s impressive to see how many languages the GSA can handle and how quickly it performs the translation. The user will be required to handle basic knowledge of the foreign language since the query is not translated. However it is reasonably common to have a corporate language witch most of the employees handle.
The preview functionality is a very welcome feature. The fact that it can highlight pages within a document is really nice. I have played around to use it through our Jellyfish API with some extent of success. Below are two examples of usage with the preview functionality.
A few thoughts
At the conference we attended in Zürich, Google mentioned what they are aiming to improve the built in template in the GSA. The standard template is nice, and makes setting up a decent graphical interface possible for almost no cost.
My experience is however that companies want to do the frontend integrated with their own systems. Also, we tend to use search for more purposes than the standard usage. Search driven intranets, where you build intranet sites based on search results, is an example where the search is used in a different manner.
A concept that we have introduced at Findwise is search as a service. It means that the search engine is a stand-alone product that has APIs that makes it easy to send data to it and extract data from it. We have created our own APIs around the GSA to make this possible. An easy way to extract data based on filtering of data is essential.
What I would like to see in the GSA is easier integration with performing search, such as a rest or soap service for easy integration of creating search clients. This would make it easier to integrate functionality, such as security, externally. Basically you tell the client who the current user is and then the client handles the rest. It would also increase maintainability in the sense of new and changing functionality does not require a new implementation for how to parse the xml response.
I would also like to see a bigger focus of documentation of how to use functionality, previews and translation, externally.
My feeling is that the GSA is getting stronger and I like the new features in GSA 7.0. Google have succeeded to announce that they are continuously aiming to improve their product and I am looking forward for future releases. I hope the GSA will take a step closer to the search as a service concept and the addition of a processing framework would enhance it even further. The future will tell.