Google Search Appliance GB-1001 Review

A couple of months ago Brad came to me to discuss problems with the search on our site. Since our site features a ton of text it’s imperative that users can easily find documents in a quick manner. Up until recently we had been using MySQL’s FULLTEXT feature, which I’ve covered extensively in articles and at conferences. FULLTEXT simply wasn’t scaling in the manner in which we needed it to. As a result, I set out looking for something that would.

I think it’s rather telling that MySQL themselves do not use this feature to index their own site, instead using Mnogo Search. While looking for a solution for us I decided against open source solutions for two reasons.

  1. We would still, essentially, be rolling our own search solution, which would still have to be maintained and supported internally. With two full time developers (including myself) this simply wasn’t an option. We needed a “Plug and play” solution.
  2. Support is non-existent for ht://Dig, but is available for Mnogo Search, however this still left us configuring, installing and supporting hardware.

This left us with two options: a hosted solution (ie. atoms.com) or an appliance (ie. the Google Search Appliance). In the end we went with the GSA GB-1001 for a few reasons.

  1. Even with the hefty price tag of $30,000 (USD) it was still cheaper than a hosted solution.
  2. It’s supported for two years and, after the two years is up, we still get to keep the hardware.
  3. Since we host it internally we can quickly change the XSLT stylesheets, etc. without having to call up an ASP to make changes.

So the GSA arrived and there was much rejoicing. Until we booted up the machine and noticed that it had arrived with a dead hard drive. Google says that it’s perfectly okay if a single drive fails and that they normally don’t replace a GSA with only a single dead hard drive. Okay, that’s fine, but the thing arrived with a dead hard drive. For that much money I would think it should arrive in pristine working condition.

To top off my frustrations the box locked up twice within a 24 hour period. Obviously, I wasn’t putting this thing into production anytime soon. Come to find out this locking business is a known issue with a working patch. I flat out asked my Google rep why it wasn’t shipped with the patch and they said it was because it only affected some of the GSA’s. Great. In the end we shipped our GSA backed after they shipped out a replacement.

The second one arrived with four working hard drives, but also suffered from the locking issue, which Google quickly patched by logging in via SSH. SSH? Yes, the Google Search Appliance runs RedHat Linux.

So what exactly does the GSA run on? Well I’ll list the specs out for you.

  1. Quad 2.66GHz Intel Xeon
  2. 12GB of RAM
  3. Five 250GB Western Digital EIDE drives (Two 250GB RAID1 mirrors on a 3ware ATA RAID card and one hot spare)

In other words it’s a really beefy linux box (in a really dorky looking yellow case). Of course the box is all locked up so you can’t look on the inside and I wasn’t looking to void our support and warranty by opening the box.

So how does it perform? Well, after much tweaking of the XML interface, it’s pretty amazing. According to Google the GB-1001 will index 500,000 documents and is capable of performing 300 queries per second.

After the initial problems with the GSA I have two major complaints with it. The first is that the support is inadequate. For $15,000 per year I expect support to be better than email-only Monday through Friday during business hours. The second is that it didn’t ship with a SOAP interface. The main Google site has one, why doesn’t the GSA? Sure I can get the response back in XML, but a SOAP interface would have been much appreciated.

Other than those two issues and a few minor quirks I give the GB-1001 a high score. If you’re simply doing a site-wide search I don’t think you’ll find a more brain dead simple solution.

10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal

  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britney Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Via drunkbunny.org.

DeLay pwn3d

Is it a sad state of affairs when CNN.com shows “Category 5 Wilma prompts evacuation” as the top story and “Arrest warrant issued for DeLay” is the *second* story down on the sidebar (below “Weakened dam stable but ‘extremely volatile'”)?

A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

The Smoking Gun will be there in 5, 4, 3 …

Joke of the Day

Bush and Dick Cheney are enjoying lunch at a fancy Washington restaurant, when the waitress approaches their table to take their order.

She is young and very attractive.

She asks Cheney what he wants, and he replies, “I’ll have the heart-healthy salad.” “Very good, sir,” she replies, and turning to Bush she asks, “And what do you want, Mr. President?” Bush answers, “How about a quickie?”

Taken aback, the waitress slaps him and says, “I’m shocked and disappointed in you. I thought you were bringing in a new administration that was committed to high principles and morality. I’m sorry I voted for you.” With that, the waitress departed in a huff.

Cheney leans over to Bush, and says, “Mr. President, I believe that’s pronounced ‘quiche’.”

Thanks to Sian!

Why does God hate America?

Apparently somebody has finally done the research and proven that while belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. This includes higher murder rates, adult mortality and STD rates.

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.

So not only is Bush spending money like a drunken sailor he’s promoting a system that leads to us being “spectacularly” “dysfunctional”.