Of hammers and nails

I’ve been a busy boy lately.  I’m in the early phases of two different projects, one of which is taking up all of my time and the other of which is taking up the rest of my time.  :)

One of my projects involved faceted search.  This is also known as search directed navigation.  What’s interesting is how this approach is becoming the new hotness.  Not only are multiple clients broaching the topic but as I become familiar with it I see faceted search as a solution to other projects as well.

Given how popular faceted search has become it’s surprising how few solutions are available.  The king of the hill these days appears to be Endeca.  I’ve been getting to know this quite a bit and while it is quite expensive it’s also really good.  Most people should be going this route.  If you’re building a platform then something like Solr is an option but if you plan to keep changing your search configuration, Endeca is hard to beat.  Do you really want to develop and maintain your own search system?  What business are you in?  Spread over a five to six year period, the cost of a commercially supported product like Endeca is a pretty easy sell.

I think we’re finally seeing the beginning of the end of the relational database era.  Relational databases will always have their place but developers are now able to apply other solutions.  Search based applications and BigTable like distributed stores are coming to the fore.  Even when you need transactional behaviour there are interesting locking models that are akin to row locking that cover many common scenarios.

When will the Rails of search based apps emerge?

2 thoughts on “Of hammers and nails

  1. Daniel Tunkelang

    King of the hill, eh? I’ll take it. :-)

    For those interested in learning more about faceted search at a modest price, I encourage you to check out my recently published book on the subject.

  2. Sid Probstein

    Great post. I agree that faceted browse is popular, and that buying such capabilities makes sense for the majority of buyers. However it’s also important to look under the hood. Manually selecting the facets for a particular category of searches is typical (and can be time consuming.)

    At Attivio, we’ve gone one step further: our product, the Active Intelligence Engine (AIE) has a feature called Facet Finder that analyzes each result set on-the-fly and automatically identifies the best facets for that search. (No pre-computing or manual configuration required.)

    I also agree with your sentiment about the relational database: it is definitely time for something new! AIE can index structured (i.e. relational) and unstructured data and has a query-side JOIN() search operator that allows you to use relationships (as a database does) and combine that with full-text operations.

    Visit our website if you’d like to learn more… thanks!

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