Replacing a Google Search Appliance 8 questions to answer

replacing the Google Search Appliance take planning.

Do you need an OEM equivalent when replacing a Google Search Appliance?

Google’s announcement for their planned end of life for the Google Search Appliance (GSA) product in February has kicked off numerous discussions with clients, partners and the larger industry concerning the technology cliff created by this announcement. The enterprise is known for not being very nimble, and an eighteen-month window for action is going to be quite a challenge for sourcing and deploying new technology. To aid in this, we have created our replacing a Google Search Appliance guide and are opening a series of blog posts to provide our expertise in this matter.

Since the announcement, vendors both new and old are making statements asserting that they are the ‘most awesomely’ perfect replacement for your existing GSA solution. At MC+A, deploying search and knowledge management solutions are core to our business and has been for over ten years. We pride ourselves on being able to handle the technically challenging solutions in conjunction with the tricky security and other integrations. We know the landscape, and after our initial conversations with clients and partners, we are of the opinion that current GSA customers are not necessarily looking for the solutions mentioned earlier as ‘awesome’ replacements. This cliff with the GSA requires a forced investment in most cases to resolve the issue. Given this, it is increasingly reasonable to an acceptable an OEM equivalent?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

— Peter Drucker

Accepting a lesser feature set than OEM equivalent may be acceptable for many use cases. The draw of the Google Search Appliance is that it provides a simple solution to a very complex problem. For customers that were disappointed with the GSA’s ‘magic,’ which is significantly different from Google.com, there are more sophisticated, flexible solutions available. This decision point, whether forced upon you or not, is an excellent opportunity to transition to a platform including new richer cognitive features. If you would like our rundown of the market options, register for our upcoming GSA sunsetting webinars.

We are working with customers to promote awareness of and options for looking beyond the cliff. We are helping transition customers from the Google Search Appliance based on each client’s unique requirements. We decided to pull together some of the common questions we get asked to help companies with planning transition.

The answers to these questions will certainly be specific to your organization. We’ve added particular comments after the question which may help clarify or start your discussion. Finally, we will be taking these in reverse order of importance:

#8 Where are they our current GSAs located?

While this seems like a simple question, knowing the location (both physically and web access) of your GSAs is the first step to understanding the solution architecture that you might have to replicate. Knowing the location allows you to get some housekeeping in order. Are they powered and connected to the network? Is the software on the latest supported patch? When does their license expire?

#7 Who is the current owner of the GSA?

For technology to succeed in the enterprise, it needs champions. Hopefully, your GSA solution has users that champion for it but, for this article identifying who the current owner of the GSA is the goal. It would be ideal for your champion and owner to overlap, however, that isn’t always the case. It is our experience that this role often changes over the course of the GSA license. If one is not identified, define one. Typically, a line of business owner or the director of knowledge management or Chief Knowledge Officer are good candidates. For clarity, we define owner as the person whose budget is affected by this.

#6 Who did the deployment?

Enterprise search is technically challenging. Did you use a professional services vendor? Do you still have the organizational knowledge around the current solution or search technologies in general? Identifying resource knowledge helps uncover gaps between the documentation and how the system is being used.

#7 Who is the current owner of the GSA?

#5 What resources are you currently allocating to maintaining the GSA system?
Google’s recommendation was for between a ¼ or ½ time resources for a standard simple deployment. Our experience was that was the minimum!

#4 What are you using the GSA for?

Now that you’ve had a GSA for a while, you should have some idea of what the performance benefits are:

  1. How many searches per month?
  2. How many content sources are indexed?
  3. How many connectors are configured?
  4. What authentication methods are you using?
  5. Have you asked for user feedback?

#3 Why did you purchase the GSA?

There are stories that businesses bought a GSA because they thought it would boost their Google.com rankings. Hopefully, you’re not in that camp. By understanding what problem you were attempting to solve is a good key to the next step.

#2 Was that successful?

What were your KPIs and success criteria for the GSA? Where these KPIs met? If not, why not. Are those goals still valid? Why did you purchase a GSA solution?

#1 What would you want to do differently?

Reflecting on your GSA solution with the benefit of hindsight can be beneficial. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? Everything being equal, what would you do differently or what would you like to have more control of going forward?