Forget politics for a moment. In the race to replace the Google Search Appliance (GSA), I am endorsing Coveo this fall.

As you are probably aware, hundreds of GSA customers must evaluate options to replace their trusty Google search engines. I have seen the ads and I have gotten the emails – there are numerous search engines in the market that claim, nay aim, to be ‘The GSA Replacement.’ Even Google presumes to be in the race with an unfinished, but I’m sure it will be great, replacement.

In my opinion, they all miss the mark. I say without reservations that Coveo is what a GSA customer will actually enjoy using. How can I be so sure? For starters, I practically wrote the book on the Google Search Appliance. There are a handful of people that I know that can challenge me for this title, but I was Google’s first GSA Qualified Deployment Specialist, I created and ran the largest GSA professional services team, our team won back to back Deployment Partner of the Year awards from Google, and I personally worked in a billable capacity on over 150 implementations, including many for the largest companies in North America. So, I have a very good idea how a wide variety of companies used the GSA and what aspects of it they valued most.

A GSA customer was someone that valued their time as much as their money. They were willing to pay a fair price for something that made their implementation easier to implement and maintain, while still yielding excellent results. Like Goldilocks, they wanted their search engine not too hard and not too soft. It needed to have a good amount of functionality available out of the box, yet still be customizable to a wide variety of situations.

Some GSA customers will now consider switching to an open source search engine, such as Solr/Lucene or Elastic. These products have astounding lists of features that most of us never knew we needed. They can index billions of items, or maybe trillions, if that’s what you need. The open source search engines are perfect for companies that have thousands of hours available to turn every knob and dial, building an impressive search stack – Jenga-style. The world is your oyster with these bad boys. I just haven’t met many of these companies. I’m sure, like Bigfoot, they are out there, and I wish them the best of luck. Call us if you get stuck.

If difficult isn’t your thing, several companies have taken open source search engines and wrapped them with love. Lucidworks Fusion, SearchBlox, Amazon CloudSearch, and Azure Search, to name a few, add various ‘value’ around an open source search engine. I don’t necessarily disagree with this approach, but I have found the execution to be inconsistent and unlikely to satisfy many GSA exiles. Support for complex authentication and authorization is lacking, connectors to content management systems over promise and under deliver, and user interface options are limited. These products provide a piecemeal experience at best.

Finally, there are several legacy search engines still around in various incarnations, such as SharePoint Search (FAST), HP (Autonomy) Idol, Sinequa, Attivio, IBM Watson Explorer (Vivisimo), Lexmark (Perceptive), Mindbreeze, etc. Their biggest attraction for GSA customers is that they have remained on-premise software. They have a smorgasbord of features that evolve slowly and are often ridiculously complex to implement at scale. None of them will hit a home run for ex-GSA customers.

And that brings me to Coveo, figuratively and literally. I joined the company because I believe in the product and its vision. It is not, and will not, be everything for everyone. But it is the best alternative for GSA customers that I have found. The Coveo Cloud Platform has all the capabilities of the GSA and much more, without adding architectural complexity. If you are willing to consider a cloud-based search platform (like you have for Slack and Dropbox and Google Drive and Salesforce and on and on) you get access to features never possible with the GSA.

For example, my GSA clients would often ask how to monitor their search traffic, and what to do if they found a problem. With the exception of brute force or divine intervention, I was unable to give them specific advice. There was too much data and too many variables. Coveo machine-learning addresses this problem intelligently and automatically with powerful machine-learning technology.

The story is the same for building XSLT templates on the GSA compared to Coveo’s elegant JavaScript UI framework. The GSA was a notoriously closed systems, while Coveo allows custom indexing pipeline extensions. Google offered a few content connectors but lacked newer applications like, wait for it, Google Drive. Coveo provides a well-thought-out list of popular connectors, including Google Drive, Salesforce, Sitecore, Jive, and many more. Coveo does not add features for the sake of upping the feature count. It provides meaningful features without adding unnecessary complexity, in the interest of creating the most intelligent workplace for our customers.

I could go on. All search engine systems are complex beasts with numerous pros and cons. I simply ask that GSA customers give Coveo serious consideration. It certainly has my endorsement.

For more information about Coveo and the migration process from the GSA, please reach out to me at cjohnson@coveo.com.

About Chad Johnson

Chad is the Platform Evangelist at Coveo. Previously, he was a principal consultant and founder of an enterprise search consulting practice. Chad has provided search-related services to hundreds of clients, including over 45 Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries, including travel, transportation, high-tech, retail, health care, education, and financial services. Chad has a computer science degree from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado.

Read more from this author