It’s difficult to find the right words for these platforms, some will say ‘search engines’, while others prefer going with the traditional ‘search server’. The ideas was inspired by someone looking for a legitimate and functional web search server, so that is the one I went ahead with.
If you’re working with a lot of data at any given time, a good search system has to be put in place – and most likely is going to be one of the most crucial aspects of your website. I’m thinking in terms of link farms, social media websites, galleries with thousands of photos – that really do need a quality search algorithm to make searching appealing.
Lucene came out over a decade ago, but it’s still one of the most functional search engines out there. You can learn more about the default Lucene-search functions in this JavaWorld post.
I gave Lucene a mention because many of the platforms in this list are either connected to Lucene, or are successors – looking to change the way to find things. I hope you’ll find what you were looking for.
According to my research, the most difficult thing about this search server is that the documentation is quite raw, and so it assumes some prior knowledge of similar systems has been acquired. It might not be as hard to understand for a seasoned developer, but newcomers might have to look online for tutorials on how to get it going.
The best way for learning about ElasticSearch and how it scales is by reading DZone’s post on how they were able to transition their huge database to this search engine, and how well it has worked out for them.
In the world of technology, rapid development rate usually means more customers and larger communities, and this is the one thing that Elastic really stands out with – they’ve been able to catch up with the majority of search servers out there, and are now pushing the latest technology within their new platform releases.
WordPress, SONY, XING, Klout are just among the few of the big names out there who use ElasticSearch to power their infrastructure.
It’s completely open-source, so you can either host it all by yourself, or use a service like Bonsai.
2. Apache Solr
Solr is the popular, blazing fast open source enterprise search platform from the Apache LuceneTM project. It’s also considered by many as the rival to ElasticSearch, but I wouldn’t really bother believing all the stories that people go about telling, rather depend on my own needs and capabilities.
Among the features you’ll find things like a spellchecker, which can check against the correctness of the search queries performed. It’s also quite flexible, and allows grouping of results by different categories.
Though, the best way to learn about the basic features of this search server is by reading this amazing tutorial, it’s quite lengthy – but it has got a lot of good stuff inside of it, and there are a lot of comments that help out.
It’s definitely one of the best tutorials on Solr I’ve seen, at least for beginners.
Why bother with hosting, when you can have it all hosted for you? Amazon CloudSearch is a fully-managed service in the AWS Cloud that makes it simple and cost-effective to set up, manage, and scale a search solution for your website or application.
It’s still in BETA, but from what I’ve been able to tell – it’s being actively worked on, and as a matter of fact – the most recent update created an integration with the Apache’s Lucene Solr, the search engine I listed before this one.
For the community, it’s big news.
Things like automatic scaling, and focused reliability is what makes AWS a good choice, considering they’ve been working with cloud services for over a decade now. Again, this month there was a new version released and here is the official blog post discussing the new features.
This is the one search application I’ve been able to play around with, a lot more than the ones I’ve mentioned above. But, that is mostly due to the fact that Swiftype provides a seamless WordPress integration – see my post for WordPress search plugins – and enables to optimize your blog in just a few minutes.
Swiftype is incredibly easy to install and deploy, and on top of that – you’re getting real-time analysis of what people are searching on your site, giving you the ability to always see what could be worked on, or what seems to be the latest trend that people want to learn more about.
As you can see, a lot of big names are using this search engine / search server, and to be fair – I think for the most part it is because how easy it is to implement, and how appealing it is for companies to use something that takes only minutes to setup, while providing top class search quality.
They’ve also been successful at raising quite a bit of money for future development, giving them the leverage they need to continue working on securing a good place in the market.
I’m going to link to three more search engine servers after this, as a honorable mention – the reason is because Denote is quite new to the market, and so has a lot of stuff to do and learn in order to have its chance at succeeding.
Though, I’m a fan of startups and new software – so I wanted to give these guys some exposure. Denote.io is the simplest, most affordable way to add a search engine to any website or app. Its patented Semantic Search technology understands content in pages and helps users to find what they are looking for more quickly.
It’s hosted on a secure cloud infrastructure, enables deep analysis of search terms, and even provides stuff like trend reports – like I mentioned above. You can grab a free 30-day trial to get a feel of it, but I do think that with time – Denote will find itself where it wants to be.
Web Search Servers Worth a Mention
All of which are very high quality platforms, offering that what you pay for.
I guess it comes down to how we want to approach these things, either from the technical perspective or simply from the one that does the most things for the least amount of money. I prefer working with hosted search servers, that provide a solid web interface that I can work from.
I’m sure though, as the time goes by, I’ll be looking to learn more about the technical aspects of this technology, as search has been so close to my whole career.
photo by edwards-search