Is Google Search Appliance a good fit for a startup like Stackoverflow (just an example)? How does it fare?
I haven’t seen many examples or talk about this device being used in the startup circles. I need enhanced search experience with capabilities like stemming, spell check, relevancy, easy of indexing and retrieving and complete customization of the user interface (more than what Solr-Lucene or Autonomy provides today. In fact I am bowled over by Google Search Appliance labs). Also speed is of prime concern. With this in perspective I wonder why GSA is not gaining adoption among the non-enterprise crowd. Is there any reason in particular?
Additionally, do they have flexible pricing models for startups ($30,000 for 500,000 documents seems exorbitant at this time)? This is to me is the primary deterrent...
If you want a search engine for just your web site there are much more flexible tools than the Google Search Appliance. We use Zoom for our web sites. It offers:
I got a demo of it around a 2 years back and it really fell short from an application integration standpoint. It also had limited ability to handle complex permissioning rules as to who can see what data. We instead implemented a Lucene solution and have been very happy. You can get similar spell checking like google by loading your index up with multiple versions of each word (ie strip out all vowels etc).
Haven't looked at it since then, so it could have changed a lot in that time.
Last time I checked the license did not permit you to use it for a public application's search functionality. And why bother with it when there are better solutions out there which will be easier to integrate directly into your app?
You could take a look at Microsoft's Search offerings. The Express edition is free of charge, runs on Windows, and is pretty easy to install. I don't know if there are any license or technical limitations that would exclude it for public website use.
I don't think you should use it for a startup. I highly suggest Sphinx, which is an open-source full-text search engine. It's used everywhere and is probably the most popular open-source search engine software. It has a ton of companion plugins for various languages, like Ruby, PHP and more.
Alternatively, you can try Apache Solr, which is a Java-based search engine. Also open-source.