A week and a day later, I’ve finally got a chance to put up my thoughts/notes on the first ever RTP Apache Lucene/Solr Meetup hosted by Lulu Press and co-sponsored by Lucid Imagination.

First off, hats off to Lulu for the excellent hosting, coordination and marketing of the event.  You could definitely see the evidence of Lulu’s “Be Remarkable” philosophy in the event. I’d say we had roughly 30-40 people for the first time event, with a good mix of developers, technical managers and a few recruiters.  There was even a “competitor” from an unnamed proprietary vendor present.  On the application front, there was a large mix of usages represented: ecommerce, publishing, video search, procurement, biopharma, etc.

After some socialization, we kicked off the night with Lulu CEO Bob Young, who gave a short intro to Lulu as well as a warm welcome to all.  Next up, I gave a talk (slides) on what’s coming in Lucene/Solr 3.x and beyond as well as answered some questions about features and functionality.  After me, Tarun Jain of The ABB Group, one of Lucid’s first customers and the world’s largest producer of industrial robots as well as a global leader in power and industrial automation with revenues around $33B USD, gave a presentation titled “Extreme Faceting Using Solr” (slides) on their move from a legacy proprietary vendor to Solr for searching all of their customer facing (and internal) product catalog (420K SKUs with 20+ million attributes and over 6M hits per month).   After setting the stage about the content to be searched and faceted, Tarun detailed how they went from wanting to “do everything in the DB” to doing nearly everything in Solr because it was that easy.  Moreover, slide 8 details the comparison they did between Solr and a very large proprietary search vendor (one of the so called top 3).  Here are the bullet points:

  1. Stress test results in Proof of concept
    1. SOLR 35 req/sec vs 2 req/sec
    2. Average response times 200 ms vs 1-7 secs
    3. CPU usage 2-3% vs 100%
  2. Sadly matchup was not even close (at least for the scenarios we tested for)
  3. Conclusion .. Performance of SOLR is inversely proportional to the cost
  4. Winner – SOLR by a KO

After Tarun’s talk, Paul Oakes from Lulu gave an excellent technical presentation (slides) on implementing auto-suggest in Solr using jQuery.  Just for grins, he also showed how trivial it was to add Google’s much hyped “Instant” search capability to Solr as well simply by making an extra jQuery call.  Naturally, the real work behind “Instant” is in capacity planning at scale, not in the programming of a few lines of Javascript.

As for the RTP meetup in general, I would suspect we will try to meet once a quarter, but maybe more often if the group so desires.

All in all, an excellent night, in my opinion.  Best of all it was a “home” event for me, so I didn’t have to fly anywhere or bum a ride back to a hotel!