Thunderstone Software LLCs release of its Thunderstone Search Appliance 5.0 last month makes it much easier for companies to deploy Thunderstone search technologies on their Web site or intranet. The 1U (1.75-inch) rack-mounted appliance provides plenty of power to index even very large sites quickly and uses powerful features to keep searches accurate and up-to-date.
One of the most interesting new elements in the Thunderstone Search Appliance 5.0 is Adaptive Indexing, an under-the-covers feature that affects all collection indexes. Using Adaptive Indexing, the appliance identifies pages that are updated regularly and those that are updated rarely and then uses this information to streamline index updates. In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that subsequent reindexes took significantly less time than initial indexes.
Prices for the Thunderstone Search Appliance 5.0 range from $10,000 for 250,000 documents to $20,000 for 1 million documents. Pricing includes maintenance for two years. This works out to less than half the starting price of Google Inc.s rival Google Search Appliance, which bases pricing on the number of search collections created. Thunderstones pricing also compares favorably with software-only search solutions, although service-based offerings can be considerably less expensive.
To set up the Thunderstone Appliance, we could connect a monitor and keyboard to the standard ports in the back of the appliance or simply boot it up and let it pull an IP address from our DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server. From that point on, all administration and maintenance is done from a Web browser.
We could quickly create any number of profiles or collections for each area or type of content we wanted to index. The appliances useful exclusion capabilities enabled us to prevent content indexing based not only on URLs and paths but also on terms and content within the actual pages.
Version 5.0s new Best Bets feature is similar to the QuickLinks feature in Verity Inc.s Ultraseek. Using Best Bets, we could define pages that would appear in a box on the results page whenever a search included specific keywords.
This feature worked well, especially in letting us create a list of weighted Best Bets for each keyword, but setting it up was needlessly difficult and time-consuming. We first had to find the page in the index using the List/Edit URLs interface, then go to a special form for the page, where we would define the keywords and the Best Bets group for the page. This seemed backward to us; it would have been much easier to simply define a Best Bets group, list the relevant keywords and paste in the URLs we wanted to appear.
Much of the Thunderstone Search Appliance 5.0s administration interface suffered from similar inefficiencies and complexities, a problem that the product shares with the Google appliance that we reviewed last year.
We would also like to see better reporting and analysis features in the Thunderstone appliance, which basically gave us access only to the logs. Many competing search engines make user-friendly, real-time data available in addition to logs.
The results pages the Thunderstone appliance provided to users were uniformly excellent, and we could perform almost infinite customization on them. Version 5.0 includes spell-checking to help users enter the correct spellings of search terms or to match terms in the index that arent found in traditional spell-checkers.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.