It has been exactly one week since Google announced that it would be sunsetting the Google Search Appliance over the next three years. And what a week it has been. I have had the opportunity to speak with media representatives at Fortune and CIODive, I have spoken with several current and prospective customers of the Google Search Appliance, I have spoken with numerous other search companies, and I have chatted informally with our consulting team and friends in the enterprise search ecosystem.
I would like to share some of my initial thoughts to the news, and the rollercoaster of reactions that I, and others, have had.
Did the news surprise me?
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The most common question I have been asked is if the news surprised me. Was I surprised that Google would focus more energy on a cloud-based service than a physical yellow box? Not at all. It makes good sense for Google to develop a technology that does not require shipping GSAs around the world and installing them in data centers. I have been a partner with Google for 7 years and I have come to expect periodic hard-left turns from them. They usually turn out to change an industry in retrospect.
Is the Cloud a good place for enterprise search?
Cloud-based enterprise search is a divisive idea. We have had some customers that were already begging for a search solution in the cloud. They were appalled that they still had to rack-mount a GSA in a data center. In some cases, the GSA was the only physical hardware they still managed on-premise. However, we have other customers that would not consider a cloud-based search engine under any circumstances. I am sure you can image the variety of clients we deal with. Each company has their own level of tolerance for off-premise services, particularly with their most sensitive documents and data. I believe that this is a topic where corporate opinions are changing rapidly, so I am not overly concerned with customers that do not want to migrate to cloud search at this time. I suspect that each year, more and more companies will become comfortable with this idea.
So what do I do now?
It all depends on how you define “now”. Google has not made any announcements about any future product. I have absolutely no inside knowledge, so what follows is purely my own opinion. A cloud-based enterprise search product from Google could end up being radically different from a virtualized version of the GSA. We should not make any assumptions until we know more. I have had some customers asking me how much the GSA replacement will cost, or what the network or latency considerations might be, or if they can import their GSA configuration files into the new Cloud-based version. It is premature to assume that these types of questions are even applicable. At this time (February 11th, 2016), we have no information about what form Google’s new product might take. We don’t know what features it will or will not have. We don’t know how similar or different it will be from the GSA. And we don’t have a timeline for when it will be available.
Therefore, “what do I do now” could be different depending on the timeline and horizon of your enterprise search needs. First, we have three full years to wind down the GSA. If you have already deployed a solution on the GSA, and it is stable and you do not need to make any radical changes or enhancements to it this year, I would suggest taking a wait-and-see attribute for at least 6 months. Wait to see what Google announces and what form the new product might take. If it sounds appealing, start to plan a migration strategy given the roadmap Google reveals to us. If it does not sound appealing or will not work for your company, you will still have plenty of time to make other plans.
On the other hand, if you have immediate enterprise search needs in 2016, waiting for Google’s new product seems unrealistic. I see two logical choices: A) go ahead and implement the improvements on the GSA now and deal with the migration to another tool at some point in the future over the next three years, or B) start researching other search options in the marketplace now and implement the new solution on a new tool. I am currently evaluating the other search engines available in the marketplace to help our customers identify the most comparable tools for their particular needs. There is no one-size-fits-all replacement for the GSA. My analysis will help customers evaluate other search options based on a comparison of features, but also on aspects like ease of use and performance. Additionally, I do not expect Google to make any more major changes to the GSA, so the appeal of other products could become greater as time goes on. Customers will need to consider all of these factors when deciding what to do over the coming months and years.
To be clear, I am not advocating a mass exodus from Google Search (present or future). It is a reality, though, that some customers are left in limbo by this announcement, and each customer will need to decide their own tolerance for wait-and-see vs. find a replacement now. Perficient is prepared to assist people on both sides of this fence. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at GooglePractice@perficient.com.