Feb 11 2009
When I first started developing with SharePoint in June last year the last thing that was on my mind was Enterprise Search. I had considered it the sort of technology that you just plug in a magic box and it just did all the work for you.
Recently, however, I have been involved in developing a customised search solution using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) to allow a client to search client and non-client related documentation within their organisation. What I rapidly discovered is that enterprise search is not a plug-and-play affair. A lot of thought needs to go into the meta data that is used to define the taxonomy of the data (in this documents) and also how users are going to interact with search and how to make sure they get the information they need.
I have also recently been on a training course at FAST Search,which was acquired by Microsoft in April 2008. The course was both an introduction to the structure of FAST ESP and also an in-depth look into customising the internal, both feeding content into the indexing engine of FAST ESP and building a rich user experience for getting content from the FATS ESP search engine.
The two activities have really awaken me to how powerfull enterprise search can be in empowering users to find information which previously they either may not have know how to access or, more likely, simply hadn’t known existed. Whilst I was learning about FAST Search, it was generally anticipated that it would be included with the next generation of MOSS. Today that was confirmed at FASTForward ’09 when Microsoft announced its roadmap for enterprise search which has two initial streams, firstly FAST Search for Internet Business which is mainly aimed at internet retail businesses – like you’d use to find products on Amazon. The second, and more interesting for me, stream is FAST Search for SharePoint, which will integrate FAST Search more closely with SharePoint and would be used for the type of internal information discovery that I have been working on recently.
Mark Harrisson also noted on his blog that Microsoft is going to be offering ESP for SharePoint immediately which is
a special offering that allows customers to purchase high-end search capabilities today, with a defined licensing path to FAST Search for SharePoint when it becomes available.
I haven’t been able to find out more information about ESP for SharePoint, but it certainly looks like it could be an interesting product to get hold of. I the mean time I’m keen to continue working with MOSS Enterprise Search and have just the right project lined up to flex my new found love of search on.