Reviewing the solutions: Coveo, Alpha Solutions, Mindbreeze, LucidworksI’ll start by saying that all of the solutions below covered 'Search and Relevancy' criteria quite well. I found most of the solutions separate themselves with Sitecore integration, environment offerings, and price.
Alpha solutions offers a Sitecore compatible on-premise search solution called Sitecore Search Solution. It is built on Apache Solr. In addition to out of the box support for Sitecore, it also extends to non-Sitecore content.
Pros: Out of the box Sitecore support including UI elements. On-premise could be considered a plus for those that can’t utilize cloud based solutions.
Cons: Costs are affordable but doesn’t include hardware.
Linux support needed. While lots of functionality, it seemed to be slightly confusing as to where to make changes. Overall didn’t strike me as the search solution that I wanted to partner with, but the main reason it got nixed is technology stack. My company uses a Windows based technology stack so adding Linux to the mix wasn’t well received.
Why use Alpha Solutions: If you require an on-premise solution with OOB Sitecore support, this is really one of the only solutions. Most don’t blink at using Linux so I don’t see that as an obstacle for others evaluating the product.
Correction: Alpha Solutions has corrected me on the requirement on Linux. It can be run on Windows - my apologies for the misinformation.
Lucidworks offers a product called Fusion which leverages SOLR and SPARK for its search. It offers over 50 connectors OOB but no Sitecore support. If moving from Google Search Appliance (GSA), Sitecore support may not be a deal breaker as you are currently using the GSA web crawler to surface content.
Pros: On-premise solution which provides similar functionality to GSA
Cons: No OOB Sitecore support. The costs seem to be higher when you factor in that you are paying for the right to spin up a VM on YOUR hardware. This is not an appliance – so when you factor in the costs of hardware and internal support of the hardware, it comes up as a slightly higher costs than the other solutions.
Why use Lucidworks: It has a full set of functionality offered and seems to be quite powerful so there is definitely a place for Lucidworks within the market – for me it graded out similar to Mindbreeze but at a larger cost due to hardware maintenance. However, the costs weren’t outrageously larger so if leaning on-premise I’d at least demo Lucidworks as your opinions may vary.
Mindbreeze offers a product called InSpire which is a preinstalled Enterprise Search Appliance Box (much like GSA). Out of the box support for over 450 connectors to various data sources but unfortunately no Sitecore connector.
Pros: On-premise appliance based solution which will make people who liked GSA very happy. Tools are provided to pull in existing GSA configurations. Easy tool for skinning a search result page. Overall costs came in cheaper than GSA which is rare compared to other solutions.
Cons: No OOB Sitecore support. Potentially limiting UI since search pages originate within appliance. Seems to allow styling of page but not sure how much other functionality it would allow.
Why use Mindbreeze: If you love that warm fuzzy feeling of plugging in an appliance and beginning the step up, then this solution is for you. It is the closest match to GSA on the market, and it comes in cheaper than GSA which will make your budget very happy.
Coveo offers a product called Coveo for Sitecore which is entirely cloud based (sorry on-premise folks). Coveo for Sitecore has the most advanced OOB Sitecore capabilities on the market with their latest Hive Framework implementation. The OOB renderings implement all the search solution best practices with total control over functionality. They offer two editions: Pro and Enterprise. Pro is actually priced very similar to GSA (slight savings) while the Enterprise edition is double the cost of Pro but provides some really nice features such as xDB personalized search results and an integrated rules engine to control boosting from within Sitecore.
Pros: Best of breed OOB Sitecore support. Extremely fast search – always sub 1 second. Hooks into Sitecore publishing pipeline so search results is always up to date.
Cons: Cloud based solution only. A little pricey if going Enterprise edition.
Why use Coveo: If you want best of breed search capabilities that are OOB integrated with Sitecore, then this is the solution to go with. The UI of Coveo is so easy to work with and the OOB search renderings allow for ease of use while maintaining a full array of customizations at your fingertips.
Honorable mention to ElasticSearch
Late in the evaluation, ElasticSearch popped up on my radar as it had been used internally for audit log searching. Since there were potential licenses in-house, I decided to evaluate. Overall this is a very powerful solution and indexes content really fast! However, it is quite a heavy lift to implement. In talks with other Sitecore MVPs, they either spent months to implement (months on support to tweak) OR outsourced the heavy lifting to a third party company. Since I work on a very small team, the decision to pass on ElasticSearch was an easy one. On my own, it would take several months of work OR outsource the work which would increase the costs of the solution to a point where other solutions would be much cheaper. Neither made sense to me.
NOTE: ElasticSearch recently acquired Swiftype. I reached out to Swiftype but their product could only handle external facing content. Long term I imagine Swiftype will expand on its capabilities to include internal content (via PUSH capabilities).
Now that we have met the potential solutions, you can see that each has its own pluses and minuses so the answer will vary based on needs, budget, etc. In the last part of this blog post series, I’ll break down the decision – keep in mind that this decision is currently being discussed so the last part may be towards April. Stay tuned to see which solution gets the rose!