Jul 07 2009
Jul 07

Acquia Launches Cloud-based Solr Search Indexing

Posted by Jeffrey Scott -TypeHost Web Development | Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
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Acquia, the start-up company founded by Dries Buytaert, the lead developer & founder of Drupal, has announced that they are now providing paid search indexing for Drupal sites on a subscription basis aimed at enterprise sites. Similar to Mollom, Acquia’s anti-spam software for CMS platforms, Acquia Search will also work for those running other open source software like WordPress, Joomla, TYPO3, etc as well as sites with proprietary code. Acquia Search is based on the Lucene and Solr distributions of Apache, and essentially works by having Acquia index your site’s content on their computers and then send it with encryption on demand to supply user queries using an integrated Acquia Search module. According to the announcement, Acquia is using Solr server farms on Amazon EC2 to power this on cloud architecture.

Many people have complained about Drupal’s core search functionality over the years, but the server requirements behind Solr and Lucene require a Java extension that most people are not equipped to manage on their existing IT architecture, staff, or budget. So Acquia is offering these search functionalities as SaaS, or Software as a Service on a remote-hosted, pre-configured basis. If you want to do it yourself, see:
http://drupal.org/project/apachesolr

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solr

According to Dries:

“Acquia Search is included for no additional cost in every Acquia Network subscription. Basic and Professional subscribers have one ‘search slice’ and Enterprise subscribers have five ‘search slices’. A slice includes the processing power to index your site, to do index updates, to store your index, and to process your site visitors’ search queries. Each slice includes 10MB of indexing space – enough for a site with between 1,000 and 2,000 nodes. Customers who exceed the level included with their subscription may purchase additional slices. A ten-slice extension package costs an additional $1,000/year, and will cover an additional 10,000 – 20,000 nodes in an index of 100MB. For my personal blog, which has about 900 nodes at the time of this writing, a Basic Acquia Network subscription ($349 USD/year) would give me all the benefits of Acquia Search, plus all the other Acquia Network services.”1

Put in this perspective, most Drupal users likely won’t be switching to Acquia Search anytime soon. But, for the most part… they have little need to. For small sites or social networks, Drupal’s core search is going to be generally sufficient. Drupal will index your site automatically on cron runs, and keep this index of keywords and nodes in a table of your MySQL database. If you are working a lot with taxonomy and CCK fields, then Faceted Search is a recommended choice: http://drupal.org/project/faceted_search

I have used Faceted Search on a number of sites and it is excellent for building a custom search engine around your site’s own custom vocabularies, hierarchies, and site structures. Faceted Search is also important in a number of Semantic Web integrations working with RDF data and other micro-tags attached to data fields. Acquia Search is designed to work in this way as well as to facilitate the number crunching involved when high traffic sites with extremely large databases of content need to sift through search archives quickly to return results from user queries. Consider the example of Drupal.org in this context – Acquia Search is the solution to managing over 500,000 nodes and millions of search queries on an extremely active site.

“Reality is that for a certain class of websites — like intranets or e-commerce websites — search can be the most important feature of the entire site. Faceted search can really increase your conversions if you have an e-commerce website, or can really boost the productivity of your employees if you have a large intranet. For those organizations, Drupal’s built in search is simply not adequate. We invested in search because we believe that for many of these sites, enterprise-grade search is a requirement… The search module shipped with Drupal core has its purpose and target audience. It isn’t right for everyone, just as Acquia Search is not for everyone. Both are important, not just for the Drupal community at large, but also for many of Acquia’s own customers. Regardless, there is no question that we need to keep investing and improving Drupal’s built-in search.”2

In summary, Acquia Search is mostly targeted at enterprise level Drupal users with extremely large databases and high traffic, and is a cloud based solution that should not only speed up the rate of return on results, it should also improve the quality of the material returned based on faceted keywords & vocabularies. For those using Acquia’s personal or small business subscription accounts, the new search should appear as an additional “free bonus” with your monthly package of services. For users, even on a small site, the efficiency of faceted search may make information more accessible for visitors.

To learn more, visit: http://buytaert.net/acquia-search-benefits-for-visitors

  1. http://buytaert.net/acquia-search-available-commercially [?]
  2. http://buytaert.net/acquia-search-versus-drupal-search [?]

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About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web