After allowing Acquia Search to simmer in over two hundred and fifty beta tester kitchens for a few months, Acquia (news, site) has taken the product and added it to its selection of hosted Acquia Network services.
What Is Acquia Search?
Acquia Search is a hosted search service for Drupal 6.x sites. Those who sign on for this SaaS approach push their Drupal content to Acquia's search servers, which use Apache's Lucene and Solr to index the content and handle the searches.
When a user runs a search on your Drupal site, the search is sent to Acquia Search, which provides the search results plus:
- Faceted filters to help users refine their search results
- Results sorting so your visitors can re-sort the results according to date, type or author
- Results weighting by marking certain results as more relevant than others
- Content recommendations by pointing out other content that seems related to the search results
What Does It Cost?
Such services are a mainstay of how individuals and companies around open source make their living. They use their expertise to expand upon a project and offer convenient, affordable alternatives to having to do all of the fancy tricking out yourself.
In this case, according to Dries Buytaert — Drupal founder, Benevolent Dictator and member of Acquia — the equivalent of three full-time employees spent nine months to set all of this up so that the average Drupal site maintainer wouldn't have to.
For those who were already considering the Acquia Network, they may be interested to know that the cost for Acquia Search is bundled into the Network price, with no additional fees required. Though, you may find that you need to raise your Network subscription level as it determines how much search power you get.
Acquia measures search power in search slices. A search slice is the processing power to handle your site's index and search queries, and 10MB of space for your index. Buytaert says that a site with between 1,000 and 2,000 nodes would do fine with a single slice, while a site with 10,000 to 20,000 more nodes might need a ten-slice package for an extra US$ 1,000/year.
Do You Need It?
This pricing is obviously not for most hobby-level sites. As Buytaert says, it's mainly for "commercial organizations for whom good search is important."
For many commercial sites, any lag in search can turn into a lag in revenue. And for large sites, it can be expensive to provision RAM, CPU and storage space for search on top of providing your content.
Many organizations and individuals simply don't need this level of search power. Sure, they might like it, especially some of the fancier features, but they don't need it to survive. You can always look forward to the improvements promised for Drupal 7's search module.
And if you're not happy with them and need better without the price tag, you can try to roll your own. After all, Acquia contributed its Solr-Drupal integration code back to the community.
However, as Buytaert says, "many organizations simply lack the Java expertise to deploy, manage and scale Java applications — or their hosting environment may not accommodate it."