Microsoft to extend enterprise search to the masses

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Microsoft to extend enterprise search to the masses

Microsoft has finally laid out its plans for the search technology acquired with the US$1.3bn purchase of enterprise search vendor Fast last year.

It announced that it will integrate the Fast ESP platform with its highly popular SharePoint offering.

The software giant unveiled Fast Search for SharePoint at the annual Fastforward event in Las Vegas.

The new search server will add the high-end search capabilities of Fast ESP into Microsoft Office SharePoint Server as a part of the next release of Microsoft Office, codenamed Office 14, scheduled for 2010.

The formal integration of Fast technology into the content management, collaboration and portal capabilities of SharePoint could boost user productivity and improve business efficiency, according to Microsoft.

In the meantime, the company said that customers can license another product - ESP for SharePoint - which is also built on Fast technology and will offer "a defined licensing path" to Fast Search for SharePoint once it is released.

Charlie Hull, chief executive at search engine development company Lemur Consulting, explained that the announcement came as no great surprise.

"The search facilities currently available in SharePoint do not have a great reputation for speed or scalability, and the purchase of Fast was one potential way to solve this," he said.

Mike Davies, an analyst at Ovum, suggested that the coupling of Office SharePoint Server with Fast ESP would create a highly disruptive influence in the industry, potentially forcing rival high-end search vendors to re-evaluate how they package and price their products.

"It will play for the masses in the same way that Microsoft made business intelligence for the masses; it's a really good move for them," he said.

Whit Andrew, an analyst with Gartner, agreed that "naturalising search" into SharePoint was a sensible move for Microsoft to make.

"The Microsoft search story has not met enterprise expectations up until now, so, having spent $1bn plus on Fast, this makes very good sense," he added.

Microsoft also announced Fast for Internet Business, a product designed solely to provide search on firms' external-facing web sites.

The product will be available in beta in the second half of this year.

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