Search Driven Navigation and Content

In the beginning of October I attended Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, USA. There were a lot of interesting and useful topics that were discussed. One really interesting session was Content Targeting with the FAST Search Web Part by Martin Harwar.

Martin Harwar talked about how search can be used to show content on a web page. The most common search-driven content is of course the traditional search. But there are a lot more content that can be retrieved by search. One of them is to have search-driven navigation and content. The search-driven navigation means that instead of having static links on a page we can render them depending on the query the user typed in. If a user is for example on a health care site and had recently done a search on “ear infection” the page can show links to ear specialist departments. When the user will do another search and returns to the same page the links will be different.

In the same way we can render content on the page. Imagine a webpage of a tools business that on its start page has two lists of products, most popular and newest tools. To make these lists more adapted for a user we only want show products that are of interest for the user. Instead of only showing the most popular and newest tools the lists can also be filtered on the last query a user has typed. Assume a user searches on “saw” and then returns to the page with the product lists. The lists will now show the most popular saws and the newest saws. This can also be used when a user finds the companies webpage by searching for “saw” on for instance Google.

This shows that search can be used in many ways to personalize a webpage and thereby increase Findability.

Search in SharePoint 2010

This week there has been a lot of buzz about Microsoft’s launch of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. Since SharePoint 2007 has been the quickest growing server product in the history of Microsoft, the expectations on SharePoint 2010 are tremendous. And also great expectations for search in Sharepoint 2010

Apart from a great deal of possibilities when it comes to content creation, collaboration and networking, easy business intelligence etc. the launch also holds another promise: that of even better capabilities for search in Sharepoint 2010 (with the integration of FAST).

Since Microsoft acquired FAST in 2008, there have been a lot of speculations about what the future SharePoint versions may include in terms of search. And since Microsoft announced that they will drop their Linux and UNIX versions in order to focus on higher innovation speed, Microsoft customer are expecting something more than the regular. In an early phase it was also clear that Microsoft is eager to take market shares from the growing market in internet business.

So, simply put, the solutions that Microsoft now provide in terms of search is solutions for Business productivity (where the truly sophisticated search capabilities are available if you have Enterprise CAL-licenses, i.e. you pay for the number of users you have) and Internet Sites (where the pricing is based on the number of servers). These can then be used in a number of scenarios, all dependent on the business and end-user needs.
Microsoft has chosen to describe it like this:

  • Foundation” is, briefly put, basic SharePoint search (Site Search).
  • Standard” adds collaboration features to the “Foundation” edition and allows it to tie into repositories outside of SharePoint.
  • Enterprise ” adds a number of capabilities, previously only available through FAST licenses, such as contextual search (recognition of departments, names, geographies etc), ability to tag meta data to unstructured content, more scalability etc.

I’m not going to go into detail, rather just conclude that the more Microsoft technology the company or organization already use, the more benefits it will gain from investing in SharePoint search capabilities.

And just to be clear:  non-SharePoint versions (stand-alone) of FAST are still available, even though they are not promoted as intense as the SharePoint ones.

Apart from Microsoft’s overview above, Microsoft Technet provides a more deepdrawing description of the features and functionality from both an end-user and administrator point of view.

We look forward describing the features and functions in more detail in our upcoming customer cases. If you have any questions to our SharePoint or FAST search specialist, don’t hesitate to post them here on the blog. We’ll make sure you get all the answers.

FAST goes Microsoft for Real – Drops Linux and UNIX Versions

“Innovation is at the heart of our enterprise search strategy, and a commitment to innovation is what brought FAST and Microsoft together.”

says Bjørn Olstad, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer, in his blog post published this Thursday. And further more

“As a part of that planning process, we have decided that in order to deliver more innovation per release in the future, the 2010 products will be the last to include a search core that runs on Linux and UNIX.”

The decision to do so is hardly a surprise to those who have been following FASTs development since the acquisition in 2008. Microsoft was last year ranked as no 1 in Gartner’s ‘Magic Quadrant’ for Information Access, an expression for the company’s single-mindedness struggle to remain the customers’ first choice when it comes to information retrieval. A strong focus and fast innovation is essential to keep this position.

Bjørn Olstad blog post holds a promise for non-Windows customers saying

“We will always interoperate with non-Windows systems on both the front- and back-end. Our search solutions will crawl and index content stored on Windows, Linux, and UNIX systems, and our UI controls will work with UI frameworks running on any operating system”

Even so, the decision states a new era and it will be interesting to follow the development. A lot of the larger companies worldwide already have a Microsoft strategy, and this might even be an opportunity to switch towards FAST. For others Björn Olstads blog post is also giving a hint about cloud-support, where a hosted solution might solve headaches.

However, the most interesting statement is the accalerated speed of innovation. Even though the last Magic Quadrant stated Microsoft as a clear leader, others are following right behind and established vendors such as Autonomy as well as new players such as Lucid Imagination are responding to Microsofts offerings with new and innovative solutions. We will continue to report about this and Microsofts roadmap, so visit us from time to time to stay updated.