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Until now Liferay has delivered search included in the portal: this is about to end for Liferay 7. The classical search will continue working with Liferay, meaning that there will be a basic search available on Liferay without installing any extra plugin; but this is no longer a recommended configuration.
Liferay is getting the search externalized; search engine installation will be a responsibility of the project deployment. Clients will have the freedom to choose the search, with a strong predilection for Elastic Search.
Search engines were invented at the time web sites could fit on a single server, but the pattern has evolved a lot since.
Here is a quick recap of the basics of search:
Liferay 7 provides a search framework OOTB that will maintain the essential search functionality if no other plugin is used (e.g. Elastic Search), and each module in Liferay is responsible for indexing the data that should be found using the search. The document mappings are defined for each plugin using a specific notation and metadata define what is indexed and how.
There are some queries types with wild cards and other capabilities to be used on the search or the Boolean query to target specific results.
ElasticSearch will be the default search engine, even though it has to be installed separately. This means that the search engine, no matter which one, must be remote, on a separate VM – it can be on the same server of course.
Extensibility and modularization will be available on the search framework too.
Clustering with Liferay and ElasticSearch can be easy, they will form automatically if not configured otherwise, as when moving to production.
On production the configuration will have to be defined, for dev and test can be done without any config, Liferay will provide it for the Enterprise Edition