Microsoft updates its enterprise-search roadmap

Microsoft officials are sharing a few new tidbits about the company's enterprise-search roadmap atthe FASTForward '09 conference in Las Vegas this week.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials are sharing a few new tidbits about the company's enterprise-search roadmap at the FASTForward '09 conference in Las Vegas this week.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is announcing that it will integrate into SharePoint 14 the high-end enterprise search technology it acquired when it bought Norway-based Fast Search and Transfer last year. (Microsoft officials are still declining to provide a ship-date target for Office 14/SharePoint 14, but it's still looking like either late 2009 or early 2010, testers have said.)

Fast's technology soups up the enterprise search capabilities that are part of SharePoint Server. Fast adds more sophisticated user-interface elements, like thumbnail and preview views; cluster support and more compute-intensive tasks like entity abstraction and the creation of relationships between concepts, explained Jared Spataro, Director Enterprise Search.

The forthcoming high-end enterprise search module will be known as Fast Search for SharePoint. Microsoft is planning to allow customers who already own SharePoint client-access licenses (CALs) to use those same CALs with the new Fast Search servers when they finally ship. (Users will still need to buy the server licenses.)

Microsoft also is rolling out a "licensing path" for existing SharePoint Enterprise customers who are interested in having access to high-end search capabilities before SharePoint 14 ships. Via "ESP for SharePoint," users can buy a license to the high-end search capabilities now and move to Fast Search for SharePoint once it ships.

Microsoft also is planning to roll out a new product called "Fast Search for Internet Business." That product take the existing Fast ESP product and tune it for Web sites. Fast Search for Internet BUsiness is slated to go to beta in the second half of 2009 and ship some time after that (Microsoft declined to release a ship target for it).

Microsoft is not yet announcing pricing for any of its new enterprise-search options, company officials said. (It will discuss ESP for SharePoint pricing one-on-one with existing customers, however, Spataro said.)

Microsoft currently has more than 7,000 customers deploying the search server piece of SharePoint, Spataro said. There have been more than 100,000 downloads of the company's free, entry-level Search Server Express product, Spataro added.

In the longer term, Microsoft's goal is to make the Fast ESP technology the underlying kernel for all other enterprise products at Microsoft that incorporate search technology.

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