Impressions of GSA 7.0

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.

GSA 7.0 Preview

GSA 7 Preview - Details

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.

Final words

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.

Search in SharePoint 2010

This week there has been a lot of buzz about Microsoft’s launch of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. Since SharePoint 2007 has been the quickest growing server product in the history of Microsoft, the expectations on SharePoint 2010 are tremendous. And also great expectations for search in Sharepoint 2010

Apart from a great deal of possibilities when it comes to content creation, collaboration and networking, easy business intelligence etc. the launch also holds another promise: that of even better capabilities for search in Sharepoint 2010 (with the integration of FAST).

Since Microsoft acquired FAST in 2008, there have been a lot of speculations about what the future SharePoint versions may include in terms of search. And since Microsoft announced that they will drop their Linux and UNIX versions in order to focus on higher innovation speed, Microsoft customer are expecting something more than the regular. In an early phase it was also clear that Microsoft is eager to take market shares from the growing market in internet business.

So, simply put, the solutions that Microsoft now provide in terms of search is solutions for Business productivity (where the truly sophisticated search capabilities are available if you have Enterprise CAL-licenses, i.e. you pay for the number of users you have) and Internet Sites (where the pricing is based on the number of servers). These can then be used in a number of scenarios, all dependent on the business and end-user needs.
Microsoft has chosen to describe it like this:

  • Foundation” is, briefly put, basic SharePoint search (Site Search).
  • Standard” adds collaboration features to the “Foundation” edition and allows it to tie into repositories outside of SharePoint.
  • Enterprise ” adds a number of capabilities, previously only available through FAST licenses, such as contextual search (recognition of departments, names, geographies etc), ability to tag meta data to unstructured content, more scalability etc.

I’m not going to go into detail, rather just conclude that the more Microsoft technology the company or organization already use, the more benefits it will gain from investing in SharePoint search capabilities.

And just to be clear:  non-SharePoint versions (stand-alone) of FAST are still available, even though they are not promoted as intense as the SharePoint ones.

Apart from Microsoft’s overview above, Microsoft Technet provides a more deepdrawing description of the features and functionality from both an end-user and administrator point of view.

We look forward describing the features and functions in more detail in our upcoming customer cases. If you have any questions to our SharePoint or FAST search specialist, don’t hesitate to post them here on the blog. We’ll make sure you get all the answers.