Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Windows Search; the honeymoon is over

Well, after my short test of Windows Search, I've come to this conclusion; Not ready for prime-time. My expectation was that it Should Just Work (tm).

I really think they tried to come up with a good search tool, but this doesn't come close to the polished utility I expected.

It seems to have issues with resetting to default index locations periodically, not providing an uninstallation method, rebooting without an option to delay it when installing, etc. etc.

Just check the forums here: http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn/ShowForum.aspx?ForumID=127&SiteID=1

I'm moving on to have a look at Locate32.net, an application not unlike updatedb in the unix world.

I should have stuck with this one to begin with, since I AM a Linux snob.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Windows Search indexing status; 149,000 files and counting

I'm keeping a close eye on the status of Windows Search on my Windows 2003 Server. The SAN shares out hundreds of gb of data, but I only need to index about 100gb... :-0

When I initially installed the new Windows Service, it occurred to me that I could roll it out to all the users, and let them index what they wanted...rrriiiiiight. I read an article that indicated when WS4 is installed, it automatically adds mapped locations to the index. WOW, that would be tons of network traffic, even if the service does throttle it back to minimize network impact.

I found it to be a better implementation to install it on the server, wait for the index to complete, then roll it out to the users, and control the index locations via GPO, keeping them off the network.

Unfortunately, the index database has grown to 25gb, and shows no signs of stopping. Good thing I decided to home the database on a volume with enough room...

I'll post back when the indexing process completes. In a day or two, or more.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Windows Search

I'd written an article a couple of months ago about leveraging Microsoft Indexing Services in the enterprise to facilitate searching network shares and publishing an ASP interface to an intranet for your users.

My environment consists of a Windows 2003 Standard server providing the Indexing Services, a second AD / ASP / MS SQL 2k Windows 2003 Standard server with attached SAN and numerous network shares holding nearly 1tb in size, indexed by the Indexing Server. The Indexing Server also hosts the ASP pages for user searches.

I've found out several things lately about Indexing Services, and would like to take a moment to point out some basic principle's of this technology:

  1. It's not necessary for the windows workstations to have Indexing Services enabled to enjoy a speedy network file search experience. In fact, many people will recommend that this service be turned off and disabled on workstations, since it can slow performance.
  2. To give Windows Desktop Search (WDS) the ability to benefit from indexed network shares, set up Indexing Services on those servers hosting the files. WDS will find the index and search it. There is one important caveat; while Indexing Services is indexing data, that database is not available for searching, and WDS reverts to simple file searching, which is snot-slow. The client will also not benefit from any iFilters that may be utilized by said Indexing Server.
  3. As pointed out above, in my environment the users do not have the luxury of using WDS to search the servers index database, since they are homed on a different server; until now.

I recently read an interesting article on Windows Search 4, a replacement for WDS 3. I'll note that WDS 3 caused many issues in my environment when it was released by Windows Update Services as a patch to WDS 2.x, causing me to do the RunAroundAndRemove dance.

As I mentioned in my other article, I wanted to provide a better search mechanism, and at the time the ASP page was the ticket, since I had the spare server, and didn't want to bog my app server down.

When I found Windows Search 4, I immediately saw light at the end of the tunnel. There are many features in this that are lacking in WDS:

  1. Group Policy for management.
  2. Operates in low priority I/O, and utilizes resource management resulting in better performance.
  3. Vista style preview handlers that allow document browsing in the preview pane.
  4. Support for EFS-encrypted shares.
  5. Federation of searches to remote indexes.

I immediately installed the client on my test XP workstation, and the server component on my production *gulp* server. Note: It WILL reboot, so perform this during off hours! If I had a "dev" environment, I'd use it...

After configuring the server index locations, you will be able to search them from your Windows Search 4 clients.

I have to say, I'm still testing this, but it works very well, doesn't seem to suffer from some of the shortcomings of Indexing Services, and looks shiny!