Testing the water with Acquia Search for Drupal

Acquia used the first day of DrupalCon DC as well as their corporate site to announce the availability of their new service via a public beta program, Acquia Search. Acquia Search is "based on the powerful Lucene and Solr technologies from the Apache project" and "creates a rich index of your site content".  While Apache Lucene and Apache Solr are "free" and open source, the implementation and maintenance of these products can be rather daunting.  Acquia wishes to solve this complexity problem by offering Solr search as a service in their Acquia Network.

Acquia Search Status on Acquia NetworkBefore the beta was available to the public, CMSReport.com was invited by Jacob Singh to join the private beta program to test and review Acquia Search. I have only been using Acquia Search for a week so I still have some learning to do in order to take full advantage of the advanced configuration options in Apache Solr.  Although I'm new to Apache Solr,  I have to say that from a website owner's perspective the implementation of Apache Search was extremely easy.  After I signed up for the service on the network, implementing Acquia Search within the Acquia Drupal CMS was just a matter of activating the appropriate modules and waiting for my content to be indexed by the server.  Acquia Search works straight "out of the box" and I couldn't have asked for anything simpler.

According to Acquia adding Acquia Search to your site gives you:

  • Faceted search – enabling your visitors to find what they're seeking more quickly with search filters
  • Results sorting - enabling your visitors to sort their results by date, type, author
  • Results weighting – allowing site owners to make some pages float higher in the results listing to improve ranking (providing more granular control than Drupal's default search weighting)
  • Content recommendations – suggest additional related content to visitors and increase their time on a site
  • Faster performance than Drupal's built-in search, improving user response times
  • And a long list of other great features we have planned

While potential customers of this service will likely come from various directions, I believe Acquia Search may become the product for enterprise customers to take a more serious look at Drupal and Acquia.  Enterprises have a difficult time delivering on the promise of Enterprise 2.0 to its people especially in the area of content management, social publishing, and search capabilities.  Jeff Whatcott, former Acquia employee, once blogged about the advantages of Drupal in the enterprise.

As I've reflected on this, I think we need to more effectively emphasize the flexibility, agility, and adaptability of Drupal. It is the breadth and depth of the module library and the community behind it that makes Drupal stand out. Drupal is nearly always up to date with the latest trends. It can be adapted to meet a multitude of special situations without lots of custom coding. Not so for most of the solutions I saw at this show. Many of these solutions fall apart when it comes to delivering on the specific requirements of individual teams and internal communities. Things like custom content types, feeds that span multiple content types, and custom views of content are problematic for many of the vendors I spoke with.

Acquia logoWhile these are all valid reasons for enterprises to look at Drupal, the reasons alone may not be enough to persuade enterprise users.  No matter the economic climate, enterprises typically are very slow to adopt new information systems into their business.  The issue really isn't that there are no good enterprise solutions out there (my readers can list a number of great open source and proprietary content management solutions). Instead off-the-radar issue can keep enterprises away from implementing better products.  In the case of a CMS, I'm thinking of the unfunded cost an enterprise often experiences before they even make a purchase.  It has been my observation that enterprises must commit a lot of talent, time, and infrastructure just to implement enterprise software for real world testing and evaluation.  This is where Acquia and their search service steps in.

I know a number of companies that like what they see in Drupal but are reluctant to invest more resources into their Intranet infrastructure.  Acquia Search could very well be the solution enterprises have been seeking without all the messy evaluation and entry level costs.  It just doesn't make financial sense for a company needing the features provided by Apache Solr for their Drupal site to not consider Acquia's Search before providing that same products/service in-house.  Acquia is a quicker and cheaper path to introducing Apache Solr services in the enterprise.  This is why I think Acquia has a winner with Acquia Search as it should entice more Drupal and potential Drupal users to join the Acquia Network.

Additional information about Acquia Search can be found at the Acquia website.

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