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A Roadmap for Migrating from the Google Search Appliance

Kamran Khan
Kamran Khan
Managing Director

The Google Search Appliance  (GSA) is being phased out. How you move forward with your search strategy in the next couple of years will be critical for long-term success. While support for the GSA continues until 2019, starting to think about your plan now gives you ample time to carefully weigh various factors and lay out a seamless, well thought-out transition plan.  

Consider this roadmap when approaching your Google Search Appliance migration.

google search appliance migration process

Cloud or Not?

As you may already know, you can move forward with the Google Cloud Platform which is a 100% cloud-based solution. There are no concrete details from Google but they mentioned that the platform will support search as well as machine learning, graph search, and natural language capabilities. 

Aside from the Google Cloud Platform, there are other enterprise-grade cloud options on which you can build your search application. From our experience implementing applications on Microsoft Azure Search, Amazon CloudSearch, and IBM Watson, we’ve found that they all are versatile and reliable cloud solutions.

However, a fully cloud-based platform is not optimized for every organization (this could have been the reason why you selected the on-premise “yellow box” in the first place). If there are complicated compliance or other requirements, an on-premise or hybrid search solution may be what you are looking for. If this is the case, there is a wide range of open source and commercial search engines from which you can choose.

Once you have an idea of whether you want to move to the cloud or migrate to an on-premise search solution, the next step is to think about your migration approach.


Migration Approaches

Search Technologies has performed multiple Google Search Appliance migrations and a variety of other search engine migrations. They typically fall into one of two approaches as below.


1.   GSA applications with complex, custom search features

If you use the GSA for mission-critical search applications, a comprehensive assessment of requirements and extensive planning ensures migration success.

We have applied a proven assessment methodology to a number of GSA migrations that were successful not only in replicating the applications but also in allowing customers to improve their users’ search experience. We have found that migrations are the perfect time to re-evaluate your application as well as add new features and functions.

Our assessment results in a comprehensive project plan based on your organization’s input at all levels – from C-Suite executives to IT professionals to critical stakeholders. Most migrations can be started immediately using our resulting project plan as a blueprint.

Here are some scenarios in which this approach works well:

  • You have multiple content sources that need to be indexed for search.
  • You have complex databases of structured and unstructured data.
  • There are advanced, unique search features that you have developed over time.

Many of our customers have relied on this assessment methodology to guide them through a process that can be quite complex. It covers all aspects of the migration process, beginning with the evaluation and selection of the right search technology to replace your GSA. 

gsa migration approachesFor most of our customers, a look at these common but important criteria is very helpful in providing a compare-and-contrast view of the potential replacement search engines:

  • Open source vs. commercial search engines
  • Scalability 
  • Connector configuration requirements
  • Content processing and indexing capabilities
  • Relevancy tuning capabilities
  • Available hosting environment



2.   Basic search applications with mostly out-of-the-box GSA features


On the other hand, like many other organizations, you have been running on readily-available, pre-built GSA features and just need to keep search undisrupted once Google stops supporting the GSA. In this case, a more straightforward, simpler migration may work for you. This approach could be the most efficient and effortless if your search application is handling:

  • Simple website search
  • Windows and CIFS fileshares 
  • Database search
  • A combination of these content sources

We will help you plan your migration by holding a Search Deployment Workshop we have developed in partnership with Google, from which we will create a Migration Blueprint based on your current GSA configuration. The Migration Blueprint contains a custom project plan designed to replicate your current configuration as closely as possible.


The Actual Migration 

Developing a thorough migration strategy gives you a great head start. It will guide you through the following implementation activities: 

  • An evaluation of search technologies to replace your GSA search application
  • Mapping your data from the GSA to the new search engine
  • Configuring your hosting environment
  • Configuring your search application to replicate the GSA features or build new features in order to provide users a good search experience
  • Launch
  • Ongoing support and maintenance 


How Do You Get There?

Currently, comprehensive guidelines from Google are not yet available - you can see our GSA experts' responses to some of the commonly asked questions here. And within the remaining window of Google support, your team will find it challenging to migrate your current search application without taking their focus away from maintaining and improving search.

Search Technologies can help during this transition. A Google Premier Partner, we also maintain strong relationships with other open source and commercial search engine leaders. With our expertise from nearly 200 GSA implementations and over 700 search engine projects, we are prepared to bring the right approach and best practices to guide you through this transition successfully.

Connect with us if you have any questions about developing your Google Search Appliance migration roadmap.

-- Kamran