Microsoft is expanding its family of enterprise-search products with a new, free, entry-level product, Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, which is due to ship in early 2008.
Microsoft made available on November 6 for download via its Enterprise Search Web site a near-complete release-candidate test version for anyone interested in dabbling with Search Server 2008 Express.
(Check out these screen shots to see what Microsoft's enterprise-search products look like.)
Enterprise search is different from consumer-focused Web search (like Google and Live Search) in that it attempts to index, search and display query responses that draw on structured and unstructured data stored inside corporate applications, as well as the Internet.
Search Server 2008 Express offers just about all of the same functionality as the full Microsoft Search Server and SharePoint Server products, Microsoft officials said. The Express SKU shares the same core search engine as Microsoft's other two server-based enterprise-search offerings -- Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Search Server (the rebranded standalone enterprise-search product formerly known by the ungainly name of "Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search"). It uses the same centralized administration console and new federated-search functionality. And Search Server 2008 Express will offer the same connectors to third-party document-management, ERP and other business software as do SharePoint Server and Search Server. And even though it's going to be a free product, Express Server 2008 won't limit the number of documents that can be indexed.
The Express SKU won't provide the high-availability and load-balancing capabilities of the other two Microsoft enterprise-search products, however, officials said. It also won't deliver the people and expertise search and BUsiness Data Catalog connectivity that SharePoint Server does. The Express SKU is designed to be simple enough to able to be set up to start searching and indexing in 30 minutes, the Softies said.
When Microsoft ships the final Search Server 2008 Express product in early 2008, it will roll out a number of free connectors that can index content from EMC's Documentum and IBM's FileNet aplications, among others. It also will add new federated search functionality that will allow applications that support the OpenSearch standard to be indexed directly by Microsoft's enterprise search products. Microsoft plans to add these new features back into the base Search Server and SharePoint Server products, possibly via a "feature update" pack.
The new Search Server 2008 Express, which was code-named "S2," is one of a growing number of "Express" products from Microsoft (in the vein of SQL Server Express, Visual Studio Express, XNA Game Studio Express, etc.) that is designed to get hobbyists and other "power users" to try and -- Microsoft hopes -- ultimately buy more powerful, pricier versions of Microsoft's tools and apps.
"There are more than 6 million buinesses out there, but only one percent are doing enterprise search," according to Microsoft's data, said Jared Spataro, a Group Product Manager on Microsoft's enterprise-search team. "We want 2007 to 2008 to be rememered as the time when enterprise search went mainstream."
Have you test-driven any enterprise-search products? What do you like/dislike about them?