Situation

One of SHANTI’s (Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives at the University of Virginia) goals is to collaborate on creating a sustainable digital ecosystem that empowers faculty, staff and students. A cornerstone of this ecology is the Mandala Framework, a collection of digital applications that support the creation and digital distribution of scholarly content. It allows scholars and creators of all levels to store, structure, visualize, network, and publish scholarly content without special grants or programming assistance.

One of the applications is a Drupal Open Source CMS (content management system) hosted by a third party in the cloud. The SHANTI team felt that the out of the box search capabilities were insufficient and lacked flexibility and control. They needed to optimize their Drupal Solr search. The team needed:

  • Support For Advanced Search Capabilities: UVa developers had built custom plugins for Drupal Solr search that are specific to their content analysis needs. However the existing Drupal hosting provider did not support the latest version of Solr nor did they support custom plugins.
  • Support For Multiple Environments: the team needed their Drupal Solr deployment to support their code promotion workflow e.g. development, staging, and production.
  • Support For Solr Multicore: the team needed the ability to support multiple collections within a single deployment of Solr.
  • More Control: the team wanted more control over changing their Drupal Solr configuration files e.g. stop words, schema files, etc.

Solution

The Measured Search team engaged with UVa’s SHANTI project team (this included their extended development team) and utilized SearchStax Cloud Manager to initiate, configure and deploy a highly available production search cluster within a couple of days. This cluster was in the same region as UVa’s application infrastructure. Since SearchStax enables Apache Solr deployments, UVa didn’t have to change their application code to utilize the SolrCloud clusters setup through SearchStax. All UVa’s team had to do was change their DNS URLs to point to the new cluster. The new cluster deployment via SearchStax is highly available as it is front-ended by an elastic load balancer. In addition, data was encrypted through SSL to fulfill the team’s security requirements.

Measured Search provides Gold level support for the UVa SHANTI project to ensure uptime and rapid issue resolution. This also enables the UVa team to push their custom plugins at a moment’s notice.

SearchStax also enabled UVa to manage multiple deployments for their QA and Production environments. The SearchStax cloning feature provided UVa the ability to clone their existing deployment instantly at the click of a button. In less than a few days, a completely new hosted Solr deployment was ready for production traffic and integrated within their existing environment. The Gold level support gives the team peace of mind that their search systems are being monitored around the clock.

Results

The SHANTI at UVa team was able to quickly create and deploy a customized hosted Solr search for their Drupal based application. This allowed the UVa team to deliver the customized capabilities that they needed for their Mandala project.

It freed their developer's time to focus on building application features rather than setting up, configuring, managing, and maintaining a Solr based search infrastructure. Plus they had visibility and control over metrics that enabled them to manage and monitor their infrastructure.

“SearchStax by Measured Search enabled us to rapidly move to a new hosted Solr solution for our Drupal deployment that gave us the advanced features we need. Critical features like: custom JAR support, access to all of the Solr configuration files and support for multiple environments, multiple collections, and so much more. SearchStax enabled us to deliver the end user experience and performance we needed.” -Yuji Shinozaki, Technical Director SHANTI @ UVa.

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