Earlier this year, Google announced it will be winding down sales of its Google Search Appliance (GSA) through 2017 and will ultimately transition from on-premises to a cloud-based solution.   But the full details of a cloud-based solution are still in limbo.

Since the announcement, a lot of goodbyes have been said to the appliance but many GSA customers are still asking the question: “What’s next?” 

And how these customers move forward with their search strategy in the next couple of years will be critical for long-term success.

While support for the GSA continues until 2019, now is the time for customers to start thinking about their plan and carefully weighing various factors and options in order to define a seamless, well thought-out transition.  

To Cloud or Not To Cloud?

As of now we know that current GSA customers can move forward with the Google Cloud Platform, which is a 100 percent cloud-based solution.

There are currently no concrete details from Google but do we know that the platform will support search as well as machine learning, graph search, and natural language capabilities. 

Aside from the Google Cloud Platform, there are other enterprise-grade cloud options on which to build a search application. They include Microsoft Azure Search, Amazon CloudSearch and IBM Watson.

However, a fully cloud-based platform is not optimized for every organization. If there are complicated requirements and other considerations at hand, an on-premise or hybrid search solution may be the answer.  

If this is the case, there is a wide range of open source and commercial search engines from which to choose.

Once a cloud or on-premises solution is determined or even if you’re still undecided, the next step is to start developing a solid roadmap and migration. This process can also help answer any lingering questions and concerns.

Moving on with Migration

GSA customers come in all sizes and represent virtually every vertical market, so the migration strategy for one may be very different from the other. However, from my perspective, GSA migrations typically fall into one of two approaches that I have outlined below.

It’s Complicated

Many GSA applications have complex, custom features. So, if the GSA has been implemented for mission-critical search applications, then a comprehensive assessment of requirements and extensive planning will ensure migration success.

Learning Opportunities

A proven assessment methodology applied to your GSA migration can be successful not only in replicating the applications but also in allowing customers to improve their users’ search experience. Migrations are the perfect time to re-evaluate the application as well as add new features and functions.

This assessment approach can help guide customers through a process that can usually be quite complex. It can cover all aspects of the migration process, beginning with the evaluation and selection of the right search technology replacement. 

Keep it Simple

Alternatively, some customers have basic search applications running on readily available, pre-built GSA features and just need to keep search undisrupted once Google stops supporting the GSA.

In this case, a more straightforward, simpler migration may work. This more streamlined approach could be the most efficient and effortless if the search application is handling things like simple website search, Windows and CIFS file shares, and database search.

The Path Forward

Currently, comprehensive guidelines from Google are not available. And within the remaining window of Google support, IT teams may find it challenging to migrate from the GSA without taking their focus away from maintaining and improving search.

A thorough migration strategy and roadmap will provide a great head start to thinking about a GSA transition plan, and will help serve as a guide through all of the necessary implementation activities, such as:

  • An evaluation of search technologies to replace the GSA search application
  • Mapping data from the GSA to the new search engine
  • Configuring a hosting environment
  • Configuring a search application to replicate the GSA features or build new features in order to provide users a good search experience
  • Launch, ongoing support and maintenance 

Depending on when a particular GSA license expires, time may not be on your side. So, starting now with a transition plan and strategy is going to be vital.  

If your organization doesn’t have an internal team dedicated to search, or even if it does, there might be great benefit to securing the help of a vendor-agnostic, Google Premier Partner that can bring the right approach and offer best practices to help with a smooth and successful migration.