The performance difference between Solr and Sphinx was fairly negligible and Solr was by far the most feature rich, also it worked nicely with Sqlite for development, whereas Sphinx required I switch everything to its own Postgres server in development.
I found a number of existing articles on this task, on other blogs around the internet, but none seemed to fulfil exactly how I have read is recommended, or best for a rails app.
- Install Solr from scratch rather than through the distro's package manager
- Be able to access Solr like any other daemon process (in turn I can write some capistrano tasks to ease management)
Since Solr runs on Java it must be installed, sadly Ubuntu doesn't package Sun's Java along with it (I heard for licensing reasons). I debated using OpenJDK but since this is production I would rather the system be as rock solid as possible and prevent any incompatibility issues.