A hybrid scavenger grid approach to intranet search

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

According to a 2007 global survey of 178 organisational intranets, 3 out of 5 organisations are not satisfied with their intranet search services. However, as intranet data collections become large, effective full-text intranet search services are needed more than ever before. To provide an effective full-text search service based on current information retrieval algorithms, organisations have to deal with the need for greater computational power. Hardware architectures that can scale to large data collections and can be obtained and maintained at a reasonable cost are needed. Web search engines address scalability and cost-effectiveness by using large-scale centralised cluster architectures. The scalability of cluster architectures is evident in the ability of Web search engines to respond to millions of queries within a few seconds while searching very large data collections. Though more cost-effective than high-end supercomputers, cluster architectures still have relatively high acquisition and maintenance costs. Where information retrieval is not the core business of an organisation, a cluster-based approach may not be economically viable. A hybrid scavenger grid is proposed as an alternative architecture - it consists of a combination of dedicated and dynamic resources in the form of idle desktop workstations. From the dedicated resources, the architecture gets predictability and reliability whereas from the dynamic resources it gets scalability. An experimental search engine was deployed on a hybrid scavenger grid and evaluated. Test results showed that the resources of the grid can be organised to deliver the best performance by using the optimal number of machines and scheduling the optimal combination of tasks that the machines perform. A system-efficiency and cost-effectiveness comparison of a grid and a multi-core machine showed that for workloads of modest to large sizes, the grid architecture delivers better throughput per unit cost than the multi-core, at a system efficiency that is comparable to that of the multi-core. The study has shown that a hybrid scavenger grid is a feasible search engine architecture that is cost-effective and scales to medium- to large-scale data collections.

Includes bibliographical references (p. 93-98).