Azure Search Service

04 september 2020 om 09:00 by ParTech Media - Post a comment

The internet was made famous with the power of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This has made us accustomed to the idea of a search engine in every application and website we visit.

"Need is the mother of all inventions". The need for search engines led to the advent of search services in applications and most websites. A localized search feature within the website/application stands as the epitome of user experience. One of these search services is offered by Microsoft Azure and it is referred to as Azure Search.

Let’s take a look into what is Azure Search Service, its benefits, and some of its popular use cases in this article.

Table of Contents

  • What is Azure Search Service?
  • How does Azure Search Service work?
  • Features of Azure Search Service
  • Key Benefits of Azure Search Service
  • Where can we use the Azure Search service?
  • Wrapping Up

What is Azure Search Service?

Azure Search is a solution that allows you to add search features in applications and websites, without the need for extensive coding or developer knowledge. This service allows non-programmers to create and deploy customized search solutions in their applications with ease.

As a user, all you need to do is upload the data to Azure Search and allow the bots to index the data. Once indexed you can connect this database to the search bars in any applications or websites. This allows your users to type their queries in the search bar and retrieve data from it.

How does Azure Search Service work?

Before we dive into the working of the Azure Search as a service, you need to understand the basic working principles of a search engine. This will allow you to grasp the concept of Azure's Search service quite effectively.

For instance, let’s consider a search engine like Google. Here is how data is indexed and made available on Google -

Crawling

Search engines like Google have crawlers that are known as Google bots. These bots crawl the internet, read webpages, and index them onto the list. It goes through every webpage, follows all the links on the webpage, and takes note of the collection of the web pages available in its Index.

Indexing

After crawling, all the webpages and their related keywords are stored in a server. Just like the index in a book, this section stores the titles, links, and keywords of all webpages.

Search Queries

Anything you search on Google is defined as a Search Query. Google breaks down this user query into keywords and uses it to scour the data in its servers. It then provides you with a list of highly relevant websites as results.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can set up and implement Azure Search Service. There are typically 4 steps involved in Azure Search Service implementation.

Step 1: Create an account or a provision for Azure Search Service

Initially, you need to create an account on Microsoft Azure or add a provision for Azure search from the portal. This is how you acquire the Azure Search Service for your needs.

Step 2: Create an index for sorting data

Once you acquire the service, you need to create an index for sorting the data. In essence, an index is a container or a table that stores the data along with identification.

Step 3: Index your data

There are two ways to index data in Azure Search -

  1. Push data into the index using Azure’s REST API or .NET SDK

  2. Point a data source (Azure table storage, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Blob Storage, etc.) to the index and let Azure Search pull in the data.

Step 4: Connect search with the loaded index:

After the data is indexed, you can connect the search bar to the index and allow the users to input search queries. These search queries will be broken down and fed to the search engine. The Azure's Search Engine displays relevant and related results

Features of Azure Search Service

Free form text search

With text-based queries, Azure's search service delivers accurate results for 99% of the time. But there are instances when the search queries may turn up results that may be unrelated. In those cases where a result is undesirable, you can hire a developer to rework or reassign variables for this search query. In essence, search queries execution has four stages -

  • Query Parsing: Separate query terms from query operators and sends them over to the search engine.
  • Lexical Analysis: The lexical analysis involves transforming, removing, or expanding query terms for a better understanding of search engines. In essence, it removes non-essential words like ‘the’, ‘or’ in the search query. It also breaks down a composite word into parts for a better understanding of search engines.
  • Document Retrieval: This step allows the search engine to find documents that match the search queries after they are parsed and lexically analyzed.
  • Storing: After displaying search results, every query is given a relevance score. This score assigns them a higher or lower position in a similar search query from the next time.

Relevance Sorting

Relevance sorting allows you to display results that match the search intent of your user’s queries. Simple scoring can give documents a score, allowing you to rank them higher in search queries.

Geo-Searching Capabilities

Azure search Service allows the user to search for data that is relevant to a physical location or a geographical area. This allows each user to scrutinize the search according to their search locations.

Filters and Facets for defined searches

This feature stands as the epitome of Azure Search Service, as it allows the users to submit well-defined queries. Filters and faceted navigation allows you to insert navigation into your application’s UI, allowing you to give a premium search experience to the user.

AI processing capabilities while indexing pages

Azure Search’s AI processing capabilities allow it to break down raw information and gather valuable text information from it. It can break down images and translate data from other languages, to gain a better understanding of the content.

Key Benefits of Azure Search Service

Here are some of the major benefits of using Azure Search Service in your application –

High-Speed Infrastructure

The cloud infrastructure offered by Microsoft Azure is blazingly fast, with very high availability. It is used by thousands of businesses owing to its highly active SLA agreements that guarantee an uptime of 99.9%.

Server-Side encryption for added safety

Microsoft Azure provides its customers with a Microsoft managed encryption-at-rest as the first layer of security. If needed, you can also create a set of customer-managed encryption keys that serve as an additional layer of security.

Monitoring Capabilities

Monitoring allows you to view key metrics like queries per second, latency issues, and throttling from the portal pages. This can give you an eagle’s eye view of your Azure search system.

Tools for prototyping and inspection

Azure Search provides its users with a set of tools which can be used to

  • Configure and Reconfigure Indexes
  • Test queries and their results
  • Refine scoring profiles

These tools allow you to refine your search results and provide users with a refined search experience.

Where can we use Azure Search Service?

E-Commerce Applications

Can you remember the last time you visited an e-commerce Store? Do you remember using the search bar in that e-commerce application? Ecommerce stores like Amazon, Flipkart, Alibaba have thousands of products that can be bought by their users. So they need to organize their data in a scalable method. They also need to make sure that all the products can be found by the user without any hassle.

Without a well-organized search feature, you wouldn’t be able to find the products that you want at that instant. Failing to add a solid search feature in their applications would bring them losses in the millions. So e-commerce stores use search services like Azure Search to help users find products that match their queries.

User-Generated Content-based Applications

User-Generated content-based applications like Facebook, Instagram use search services to help their users find the content they are looking for. Azure Search Service can help application owners index user-generated content and display results that are highly relevant to the user's queries

Edu-tech Applications

Have you ever scouted Edu-tech applications like Udemy or Skillshare for a specific course? If you ever did, then you might have used the power of a search solution provider. Edu-tech applications are on the rise and providing the best user experience is one of the most important criteria for them. Search services like Azure Search help users find their lessons and courses with ease, paving the way for terrific user experience.

Wrapping Up

The World Wide Web we know is growing exponentially and search engines serve the platform for immense growth. Search service providers like Azure will help applications and websites improve their user experience with high speed and highly accurate search features in the future.