Book Review: Solr 1.4 Enterprise Search Server

This is a book review of Solr 1.4 Enterprise Search Server, by David Smiley and Eric Pugh

I picked up this book after hearing about Solr. I was looking into Drupal and trying to see what indexing engines were available for it and the only option that seemed to fit the bill was Solr. It became quite apparent to me, that Solr, being built on top of Lucene was quickly becoming a a favorite of developers out there. Having a fair amount of previous experience directly with Lucene I figured this would be a good book to get an introduction to this package.

Overall this book is pretty good. I’ve never read a book by Packt Publishing and compared to the Wroxs’, Oriellys’ and Mannings’ of the world, the publication does seem a bit rougher with some minor grammatical and editing errors… but overall those things don’t bother me.

This book pretty much appears to cover all the guts to get you up and running with Solr. Chapter one gives a solid overview of the platform, which Chapter 2 dives right into one of the most important items for anyone working with an indexing engine: text analysis (stemming, tokenization, index vs. query time analysis etc). Having dived into the guts of writing my own search engine using Lucene, I felt the authors did a pretty good job covering this important topic in the 2nd chapter.

Chapters 3 and 4 cover the basics of indexing and basic searching, which chapters 5 and 6 jump into the higher level components that Solr provides and which lots people are interested in nowadays: faceting, term highlighting, suggestions, spell checking etc.

Chapters 7 through 9 cover more systems administration related topics, such as deployment options, logging, monitoring, non-java clients/langs (PHP, Javascript, JSON) and finally on how to scale Solr both with vertical tips and solutions for horizontal (master/slave scenarios).

Overall I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking at Solr as a solution to add an indexing engine to their application. Having written a Lucene implementation in the past, I can appreciate a lot of the features that Solr appears to bring to the table so you don’t have to write them from scratch. The book presents much of the material in a straightforward manner targeted towards intermediate to advanced readers. Solr’s scaling capabilities look very attractive as well, either way I hope to get an opportunity to try this project out in the near future.

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