At my workplace, we have a number of Google search appliances. There are a number of issues and errors with Google’s design and marketing of their search appliances, which I will outline below.
These devices are very expensive, and in most cases, they are so expensive (too much so) that we have only one, and thus no redundancy. This is a problem! I don’t remember, and can’t quote exact numbers, but when we first started buying these, it was near $30k each , and that was for a non redundant server that would crawl 1 (yes, a single) site. I will admit that I believe the prices are cheaper now.
Google’s support model doesn’t include the ability to call Google. All that you can do is go to the website and post a tech support incident and wait for a call-back. Not being able to get someone on the phone immediately is a problem! This is the enterprise, this is a fortune 300 company, we don’t desire to wait some unknown amount of time for someone to call us back, it simply is not acceptable.
In addition to this, most of the time, all Google wants to do is SSH into the box, which requires 1 of 2 things.
1: An SSH connection from the outside world in.
Since these devices are internal only, they are unavailable to the outside world, and because of PCI Visa compliance, it is an act of God to get a firewall rule put into place to allow something like this, and as much of a problem to have it removed afterwards. When you are under fire and need to get support, having to fill out the necessary paperwork to get a firewall rule in place just isn’t acceptable, it takes too long.
2: A modem and phone line.
Modems are a little easier, but it is difficult to keep a modem somewhere, keep a phone line somewhere (but not attached) and then to have to go and manually connect one to to one of many pieces of hardware that could be anywhere in the 100,000 sq/foot datacenter. Well, this just sucks. It is difficult to do.
And lastly, everytime you have an issue that can’t be fixed over the phone (due to the hardware issues I mention below, this is often), then Google has to ship you a new, unconfigured device. That’s right, you are down, and have to wait on one of these devices to be packaged up, shipped, and received. Then you have to go through tons of red tape (thank you PCI compliance) to get the device into the datacenter and get the old one out. Once you have completed all of this mess, you get to start over and reconfigure the device from scratch! And of course, let’s not forget that after that, it has to crawl all of the content again, which can take from several hours to a day. The net/net is that if you have a hardware problem, you have an outage that lasts several days, again, this is not acceptable in the enterprise.
When we first started buying these appliances several years ago, they were tiny 1U boxes with zero redundancy built into them. Due to the expensive price, it was cost prohibitive to use redundant appliances. So we are buying these very expensive appliances, and of course, they would fail occasionally. (I will get to what happens in a failure situation in the support section.)
After some time, Google saw the error if its ways, and started using redundant Dell hardware (they don’t tell you this, but aside from being YELLOW (lame), they look just like the other Dell hardware that we have a datacenter full of. This was indeed a step in the right direction, but not far enough. Since they don’t admit that they are Dell hardware, when something fails, you can’t call Dell yourself or have them call Dell and just schedule the hardware replacement, you have to.. guess what? Get a device shipped to you! See above for how long this process takes.
Additionally, there were certain devices used which have known problems, and we had a 100% failure rate. What this means is that every single device of this type failed. Was Google proactive? Did they ship us a replacement device ahead of time? No! They waited on each one to fail, and we had the several day outage for each one. This is not acceptable in the enterprise.
The problem here is that google isn’t trying to apply it’s model in appropriately. They are making the mistake of banking off their name only, and not following up with the service and support to go along with the amount of money that the devices cost, and the expectation of the large customers that are buying their products. This is a common mistake, and has been the demise of many products and services over time. Google: WAKE UP. Listen to your customers, service and support what you sell, and stop trying to bank off your name only. This will not last.
My recommendation is to avoid purchasing any Google search appliances until they learn to listen to customers and respond appropriately.