Azure Search

Recently Microsoft published some updates to its Azure Search offering, we briefly talked about this in a blogpost.

What is it?

Azure Search is “Search-as-a-service” offered as an Azure cloud service focused on web and mobile development. Technically it is using ElasticSearch (ES) as its engine but this does not mean it is an ElasticSearch on Azure!

Azure Search provides an abstraction layer above ES with a Microsoft twist. It has its own REST API that has little to do with the .net API for ES called NEST. It has different ways of handling indexes, also the support for data types is limited to primitive data types. There is a free version and a paid version that offers much more performance and scalability.

Why use it?

So, why and where would you use it?

Next to the basic types they have string collections and geo-locations. This gives us some clues about its target: social content, mobility and simple ecommerce sites.

Azure Search is an abstraction layer that hides a great deal of complexity in return for a simple learning curve, it saves you from having to set up, manage and fine tune a search infrastructure but still providing scalability “on demand” (elastic!). No need to worry about complex settings and tuning.

The downside is that you have to use the rather rigid schemas  and a more limited search API than the product it is based on. It is language aware and supports more than 50 languages.

There are some nice example on Github, like this:


It provides a search interface on top of the NYC Open Data database.

Or another one using D3.js:


Sources and explanation can be found here.

And what about Sharepoint Search?

The current Enterprise Search solution from Microsoft is still Sharepoint Search. This is quite a different beast as it has the ability to crawl on itself all kind of data sources. With the Azure Search you have to create the indexes yourself. Sharepoint Search offers the full stack where you have UI to manage the search administration and the building blocks to create search centers without coding. The Sharepoint search is also available on-premises, the Azure Search online is a 100% cloud service.

We are curious how these two product will evolve: it would be nice to integrate some of the Azure Search features into Sharepoint, in particular the language and geo-location part.