Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Microsoft buys FAST Search & Transfer

Today's big news is that Microsoft is buying FAST for US$ 1.2 billion. FAST is a major player in the enterprise search market, and a merger opens interesting possibilities if and when Microsoft succeeds in integrating FAST's search technology with their own Sharepoint platform.


ABB currently has an enterprise agreement with Verity/Autonomy, which we use for all structured search on our web sites. In addition we're using Google's enterprise solution GSA to serve search results for unstructured content both on http://www.abb.com/ and on our intranet site inside.abb.com.


We have recently looked at FAST's search solution, and found it to be excellent. However, switching costs and uncertainty about the future development of FAST and their major competitors made us conclude that we should stick with Verity for the time being, and rather look at how we could fine tune the current solutions.


The different search platform evolve over time, and in addition our user needs are changing. When we scrapped using Verity for unstructured content and replaced it with Google's GSA some years ago, we were very happy with the resulting improvements. Now we see further improvement is needed, especially for the intranet.


Search on an intranet is inherently different from Internet search; While ranking of Internet search results to a great extent can rely on link popularity, intranet search must to a much greater extent depend on relevancy. Even if no search solution is either or, this calls for different weightings in the algorithms for the two vehicles.


With exponential growth in web content, both inside and outside the firewall, more focus on the issue of findability is called for. And search is an important element of this. Our plan is to look into possible short term improvements using the current solutions, while we start the process of assessing our long term options.

1 comment:

Steve Hammond said...

As a Product Manager for ABB's Instrumentation group based in the States I feel the Google search is much improved over the predecessor. I can actually have a customer on the phone, perform a search and guide him to the proper page on the site without much problem. This was not true several years ago...