Out of control document management plagues businesses of every dimension. Duplicate documents, multiple file formats, poor filing practices, buried files, and files spread far and wide in multiple repositories are some of the common problems facing users looking for documents both living and archived. The answer is to index those documents into a central database. But, how do you efficiently index thousands or perhaps millions of documents in such a way as to be both fast and efficient? The simple solution is a search appliance that performs the task for you.
A search appliance is a dedicated computer with a small footprint (1U or 2U) whose only task in life is to provide indexing and searching services to your users or customers. All appliances ship with a web-based interface for easy administration and end-user document search and retrieval. Most search appliance manufacturers provide multiple appliance levels to fit your budget or specific indexing needs. This list of seven enterprise search appliances is in no particular order.
A word of caution is in order when comparing search appliances and their pricing models. Most appliance vendors charge by how many documents you want to index. A few charge by the amount of data you’re indexing, while others have no limit on the number of documents or the data volume.
MaxxCAToffers up a true enterprise solution that includes high availability, clustering, database integration and application integration. The highly performing (12,500 queries per minute) MaxxCAT sports a SQL connector to pull data from multiple databases sources. The MaxxCAT EX-5000 series has the capacity to index millions of documents and features a mirrored 1TB storage in a 2U form factor.
MaxxCAT’s Integration Services Group custom builds solutions capable of 250,000 queries per minute and indexing billions of documents.
Google Search Appliance
Google’s Search Appliance (GSA) is the product in this space to which every other search appliance manufacturer compares itself. And, there’s good reasoning behind that comparison: Google knows search. The GSA features Cloud Connect integrated search, People Search, Dynamic Navigation results filtering, Active-Active high availability and Sharepoint 2010 compatibility.
The GSA delivers true universal, enterprise-quality search across your entire organization. The downside to GSA’s awesome power is the price. Prices actually compare pretty well with comparable appliances at the lower end of the number of documents. The price disparity begins when you want to index a million or more documents with GSA.
Thunderstone is another very well known name in the search appliance business as one of the pioneers of search technology. But, don’t assume that since Thunderstone began operations in 1980 that their technology is old. Their R&D team continues to innovate and pioneer in the business of search. And, with high-profile customers that include QVC, eBay, About.com, Corbis, Associated Press and ZDNet, they have to stay ahead of the competition.
The Thunderstone Search Appliance (TSA)can index information directly from almost any enterprise database system. It also has some unique features such as real-time add or remove URLs, index file servers with no web servers, index flash files and remove duplicate files from search results.
Fabasoft Mindbreeze Appliance
Though the Mindbreeze site is a bit difficult to decipher because of its native German language content, the Fabasoft Mindbreeze Appliance (FMA) is a major European contender in the enterprise search appliance marketplace. The FMA boasts fast setup and deployment, easy scalability, a centralized interface and a significant price-to-performance ratio.
Fortunately, you don’t have to learn German to use the FMA, since it “speaks” 18 different languages. It’s a product with international appeal in mind. Mindbreeze is also known for its “Zero known Defects” policy, which means that only products that have all known defects corrected will ever see the customer’s site.
Searchdaimon is another European entry based in Norway. Searchdaimon is the most flexible among all of the search appliance vendors in this list with three enterprise-level options: Search software, A VMware virtual search appliance and a hardware search appliance. One notable feature of their product is that it integrates with your Active Directory (AD) environment so that when users login, they have access only to the files and information granted in AD.
Unlike other search appliance vendors, Searchdaimon prices its products based on the number of users, instead of documents or data volume. If you’re not in Norway or in the EU, you’ll have to figure out the exchange rate from Norwegian Krones into US Dollars or your particular currency.
Perfect Search Appliance
Billed as “The Industry’s most powerful search appliance,” the Perfect Search Appliance (PSA) also boasts 10 times the capacity and twice the query speed of the GSA. The PSA runs your choice of Windows or Linux for the underlying operating system. The PSA has several options including a One Box Extender (OBX) that adds scalability and lower cost extensibility for your existing GSA. Unlike most other search appliances, the PSA’s cost has nothing to do with how many documents you want to index but rather how much total data you have.
The Perfect Search Corporation also offers a White Label Option for those of who want to brand the PSA as their own.
Black Tulip Systems ONEZEEK
The ONEZEEK Document Search Appliance features include easy setup, activity reports, fine-grained controls, collections, on-demand indexing and customizable document types. Black Tulip offers multiple pay-as-you-index plans from very small to any-sized enterprise and two different appliances from which to choose.
The ONEZEEK appliance price includes a predetermined number of indexed documents, one year of customer support, software updates and unit replacement coverage.
Black Tulip also offers an offsite website search service that comes in both free an paid versions. The paid plans depend on the number of pages you want to index and search.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.