Packaged solutions and customisability, the Python way

With any large scale software installation, there is going to be some customisation and tweaking necessary, and enterprise search systems are no exception. Whatever features are packaged with a system, some of those you need will be missing and some won’t be used at all. It’s rare to see a situation where the search engine can just be installed straight out of the box.

Our Flax system is based on the Xapian core, which has a set of bindings to various different languages including Perl, Python, PHP, Java, Ruby, C# and even TCL, which makes integration with systems where a particular language is preferred relatively easy. However for the Flax layer itself (comprising file filters, indexers, crawlers, front ends, administration tools etc. – the ‘toolkit’ for building a complete search system) we chose Python, for much the same reasons as the Ultraseek developers did back in 2003.

The flexibility of Python means we can add any missing features very fast, and create complete new systems in a matter of days – for example, often a complete indexer can be created in less than 50 lines of code, by re-using existing components and taking advantage of the many Python modules available (such as XML parsers). Our open source approach also means that solutions we create for one customer can often be repurposed and adapted for another – which again makes for very short development cycles. Python is also available on a wide variety of platforms.

We’re not alone in our preference for Python of course!

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