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The Current State of the Google Search Appliance (GSA) Migration Planning

GSA User Survey Results and Expert Commentary

With the Google Search Appliance (GSA) end-of-life approaching - renewals end in 2018 and support ends in March 2019 - GSA users need to think outside of the box when it comes to migration strategy. Although the GSA is an integrated hardware and software platform in a single ‘plug and play’ package that needs a minimum level of configuration and maintenance, a smooth migration would require more than just putting another search engine in place of the “yellow box ." 

In the summer of 2016, we conducted a survey among hundreds of GSA users, including our customers and other organizations, to see how they are planning to migrate from the GSA. 

While the survey respondents remain anonymous, we’ll be sharing our findings as a high-level overview of the GSA migration strategy, providing you overall trends and guidance for your own transition from the GSA. Let's take a look.


Use Cases for the GSA

First, we identified the GSA applications used by our survey respondents. Built for search - Google’s strongest competency, the most common GSA use cases in the enterprise are website or intranet search, as illustrated in the chart below. 

 google search appliance use cases


Customization vs. Out of the Box

61% deployments are standard, out-of-the-box features while 38.4% have a mix of standard and custom features. Less than 1% have highly customized GSA features.  

google search appliance deployment types

Given this result, we interviewed Bill Fowler, Search Technologies’ Architect & GSA Expert, for additional insight on the out-of-the-box implementations. According to Bill,

The GSA's out-of-the-box browser-based search application with a simple search box and results can look like searches on Since this is the default configuration for the GSA, it was (and is) entirely possible to install the GSA, do minimal configuration for crawling a website, and end up with a website search feature with Google’s familiar search box and results that look exactly like Google results down to the color scheme and the Google logo. In less than an hour.” 

In our experience, even the most sophisticated search applications utilize the GSA’s pre-built features, including those that lead to ease of use and maintenance. So the bare minimum of features required for a successful Google Search Appliance migration would include:

  • Security 
  • Search relevancy 
  • User search features 
  • Search results presentation 
  • Crawling 
  • Connector integration 
  • Ability to build custom connectors 
  • Analytics and reporting 

To read more about each of the criteria above in detail, download our free e-book "Top 10 Criteria for Selecting Your GSA Replacement." 


GSA Transition Planning

The majority, 78% of survey respondents, said that they either have no migration plan yet or would like to plan but are not sure where to start.

 gsa migration planning

These results show that the GSA migration planning is most likely still in the very early phases. However, some may not have even known about the GSA’s end-of-life or are unsure of where to start planning. If you are in this situation, Bill advises that:

"Current GSA customers are just trying to work through problems with their current setup in the context of their GSA renewals. But they should be starting the transition as soon as possible for those with one-year renewals, and certainly in the next six months for those with two-year renewals." 

Also, if you are like the 62% who have a standard, out-of-the-box GSA deployment and are just looking for a plug-and-play replacement, you should also start early to avoid unexpected delays and focus on new search initiatives beyond the GSA. 

“For search systems with complex setup and expanded functionality including content processing, migrations can take up to six months of technical work to re-work their search features and add improvements, etc. Add to that the  time it takes to come to terms and sign contracts with vendors. So, you need to begin the process sooner than later.” – Bill commented. 

If you're still considering your replacement options, download this e-book to read about some guidance for selecting your GSA replacement, or schedule a free consultation with one of our GSA experts for an in-depth discussion.


What Are the Alternatives?

Looking for the right alternative to the GSA is a critical part of migration planning. We asked our respondents about their thoughts on cloud-based vs. on-premise alternatives.


gsa replacement hosting platform


Unsurprisingly, migrating to an on-premise search engine is a popular choice among GSA users, as the GSA itself is a physical hardware. About 77% respondents said they were considering open source search engines, specifically Solr and Elasticsearch - the two most popular search engines today (DB-Engines). 

However, many are also considering waiting for Google’s cloud-based search solution, which is still evolving, with no concrete details at this point in time.


google search appliance alternatives


Looking for a Seamless, Risk-Free Transition from Your GSA? 

Many GSA customers have asked us for advice as to their replacement platform. We brought this up to Bill Fowler, who commented:

“One thing that is missing from the GSA and in many other search engines is a comprehensive method for processing content to optimize search. My experience has convinced me (and every consultant at Search Technologies) that effective content processing for the purpose of search is a requirement for a successful search application in the enterprise. This requirement is magnified where multiple sources of content exist and where the knowledge domain of the content is varied.”

In general, regardless of which search engine your organization will use to replace the GSA, attention to content processing capabilities would be among the most critical areas in migration preparation, deployment, and post-migration improvements. 

To address the content processing challenge encountered with many search products, we have developed the Search Technologies' GSA Replacement Solution – a full enterprise search solution built around Elasticsearch, our technology assets, and other complementary technologies. Our technology assets, with advanced capabilities for content processing, a range of connectors, and the ability to scale and integrate with analytics applications, can complement Elasticsearch (or other search engines) to deliver a cost-effective and powerful replacement for the GSA.   

To learn more, watch our free on-demand webinar and demo, or schedule a free consultation to discuss your GSA migration plan with our experts.