The Challenge: The search for cost-effective and reliable search
Matt Mitchell, the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Synap, now part of Imagineer Technology Group, knew that his business relationship software relied on solid search functionality. Customers using the platform needed a fast and easy way to search through all their emails, support tickets, notes, and documents.
But it was Matt’s job to carefully choose the technology for Synap, and he knew that this decision would be business-critical. The search engine he decided on would not just impact the platform in the short-term, but for years down the road. “When we started out, we just wanted software that could do basic search of document and email data,” recalls Matt. “But we wanted it to work without having to spend a huge amount on maintenance, overhead, operational costs, or our time.”
The team at Synap decided they wanted to leverage the open source search engine Elasticsearch. But Matt knew they would need help configuring, monitoring, and scaling the servers. “We’re trying to do as little traditional operations as we can get away with,” Matt says. “Configuring and maintaining something like Elasticsearch can be a time sink, and our team doesn’t have competence for that.” By going with a third party vendor, they would be able to worry less about how their search was functioning, and focus more on the customer experience. “Maybe we could have done it all by ourselves,” Matt considers. “But at the same time, it’s much more responsible to spend some money to have someone who knows how to operate the thing and keep it running for us.”
The Solution: A “worry-free” and scalable search engine
When Matt discovered Bonsai, it seemed like the perfect fit for the Synap platform. In addition to being fast and reliable, the Bonsai search engine was scalable, required no maintenance, and fit their budget.
“We decided on Bonsai because it had a good price point, and allowed us an obvious media upgrade path to dedicated clustering,” Matt explains. It was also important to Matt that they would be able to get a high level of service and support from the Bonsai team. With help from the team at Bonsai, the developers at Synap were able to set up and optimize the search engine for their multi-client environment. “We were happy they’d be able to give us a bit more attention and service,” says Matt.
“One of the things we relied on the Bonsai team for help on was to configure our cluster and our usage of it,” Matt praises. “So in terms of how to set up indexes and shard, they really helped with all that. The initial setup was very easy, and we were pleased with how it went, right out of the gate.” Now, the Synap platform would allow customers to easily search for anything they needed. More importantly though, once their Elasticsearch cluster was set up, no one on Matt’s team had to spend their time worrying about maintaining it. “Part of our selection criteria was that we wanted something we could more or less fire and forget about it. And even though search is such an important part of how the application functions, and the moment-to-moment usage of our users, we pay relatively little direct attention to Bonsai… which is exactly what we wanted.” In terms of value and return on investment, Matt says the decision to go with Bonsai was a no-brainer.
“Am I getting enough ‘not have to care about that’ to be worth the price? The answer is definitely yes. I couldn’t hire an engineer to run this for me for anywhere near what I’m paying for it.”
The Results: Advanced search capabilities with zero downtime
Shortly after implementation, Matt realized his team could do even more with Bonsai than they’d anticipated. “Our original concept was to just use it to search through messages and document bodies – for text, essentially,” recalls Matt. “We actually ended up building it out so that we could use the Elasticsearch data as a sort of pre-computed cache of the entire entity graph. So we use this as our primary data access path through the system.” With guidance from the Bonsai team, Matt upgraded to an Enterprise cluster. This meant that the search platform could better handle and process additional data, in a much more stable and consistent way. Synap also benefits from private Slack Channel support as part of their enterprise package. Matt says having enterprise access to the Bonsai support team was absolutely critical for big decisions like this, and other challenges they’ve had along the way.
“We’ve taken advantage of the Bonsai team’s support for mistakes that we’ve made. They’ve saved our bacon at least once. We have pretty good turnaround access to them in the Slack channel, which is how we primarily communicate. They are very easy to ask questions of, and I’ve been happy with the support we’ve gotten.”
— Matt Mitchell, CTO, Synap
Since upgrading to an Enterprise cluster, Matt says Bonsai has never let them down. There has been no real downtime, and search results have always been extremely fast. “Since we upgraded to the medium-sized cluster, Bonsai has never been the bottleneck,” Matt praises. “We haven’t had any legitimate downtime, and we’ve been able to push out as much data as we can reasonably process. We’re paying them to make this thing fly for us, and by and large it’s been doing just that.”