Open source search engines are constantly being updated. New releases come out on a regular basis. It’s easy for companies to fall behind on releases because if the search engine is working, why touch it? Open source communities put a lot of effort into ensuring that projects like Solr, Elasticsearch and OpenSearch address issues like security vulnerabilities and bug fixes that are reported, and these improvements accumulate with each release. The longer companies wait to upgrade, the harder it is to upgrade. One example is that data formats can change causing unexpected incompatibilities. It’s especially important to consider upgrading frequently to ensure data formats don’t cause unexpected incompatibilities and that custom plugins continue to work.
Over time, software interfaces change. This can make old plugin code incompatible without some code changes. Usually these changes are pretty small, even non-existent, between minor point releases. However, the changes in a minor release have a cumulative effect, eventually manifesting in a significant API shift between major release versions. The net result is that the level of effort to maintain the custom plugins across major version releases only grows over time and could result in having to re-implement those plugins. Upgrading frequently and keeping up to date with the latest release will allow the business to identify breaking API changes early, when the open source community has made a change to the project.
Old software that works is still vulnerable to new security exploits that occur. Hackers are constantly looking for attack vectors in software that can be exploited and potentially expose sensitive data. The older the software is, the longer the hackers have to analyze the code to identify the vulnerabilities and leak them to the dark web. It’s possible that the search engine that is currently running has many well known vulnerabilities that can leave a business’s data exposed to hackers that want to take over the servers and exploit them for their own illegal means.
Another benefit to upgrading your search engine technology is to take advantage of bug fixes submitted by the open source community. These fixes and improvements may allow your business to remove some work-arounds that were put in place to address the previous limitations. Removing technical debt makes the search engine easier and cheaper to maintain in the long run.
It’s also entirely possible that new features might exist in the release that eliminate the need to have custom code. This also decreases the complexity and cost of ownership, especially when custom plugins are at play.
KMW Technologies has a long history of performing successful upgrades and migrations of search engine platforms. If you’d like to learn more, contact us below for more information on how you can keep your technology stack up to date.