Microsoft is betting on cloud, mobile and social for SharePoint 2013 – Impressions from the SharePoint Conference 2012

Over 10,000 attendees from 85 countries, more than 200 sponsors and exhibitors, and over 250 sessions. Besides these impressive numbers, the 2012 SharePoint conference in Las Vegas has also marked the launch of the new version of SharePoint. Findwise was there to learn and is now sharing with you the news about enterprise search in SharePoint 2013.

In the keynote presentation on the first day of the conference, Jared Spataro (Senior Director, SharePoint Product Management at Microsoft) mentions the three big bets made for the SharePoint 2013 product: CLOUD, MOBILE, and SOCIAL. This post tries to provide a brief overview of what these three buzzwords mean for the enterprise search solution in SharePoint 2013. Before reading this, also check out our previous post about search in SharePoint 2013 to get a taste of what’s new in search.

Search in the cloud

While you have probably heard the saying that “the cloud has altered the economics of computing” (Jared Spataro), you might be wondering how to get there. How to go from where you are now to the so-called cloud. The answer for search is that SharePoint 2013 provides a hybrid approach that helps out in this transition. Hybrid search promises to be the bridge between on-premises and the cloud.

The search results from the cloud and those from on-premise can be shown on the same page with the use of the “result blocks”. The result block, new to SharePoint 2013, is a block of results that are individually ranked and are grouped according to a “query rule”. In short, a query rule defines a condition and an action to be fired when the condition is met. With the use of the result blocks, you can display the search results for content coming from the cloud when searching from an on-premises site and the other way around (depending whether you want the search to be one-way or bidirectional), and you can also conditionally enable these result blocks depending on the query (for example, queries matching specific words or regular expressions).

hybridsearch

Screenshot from the post Hybrid search of the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog showing how results from the cloud are integrated in the search results page when the user searches from an on-premises SharePoint 2013 site.

Before making the decision to move to the cloud, it is wise to check the current features availability for both online and on-premise solutions on TechNet.

Mobile devices

With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has added native mobile apps for Windows, Windows Phone, iPhone, and iPad, and support across different mobile devices (TechNet), which provides access to information and people wherever the users are searching from.

Also important to mention when talking about mobile, is that the improved REST API widens the extensibility options and allows easy development of custom user experiences across different platforms and devices. The search REST API provides access to the keyword query language parameters, and combining this with a bit of JavaScript and HTML allows developers to quickly start building Apps with custom search experiences and making all information available across devices.

Social search

In the same keynote, Jared Spataro said that Microsoft has “integrated social very deeply into the product, creating new experiences that are really designed to help people collaborate more easily and help companies become more agile.” This was also conveyed by the presence of the two founders of the enterprise social network Yammer in the keynote presentation. The new social features integration means that the information about people following content, people following other people, tags, mentions, posts, discussions, are not only searchable but can be used in improving the relevance of the search results and improving the user experience overall. Also, many of the social features are driven by search, such as the recommendations for people or documents to follow.

Whether you are trying to find an answer to a problem to which the solution has already been posted by somebody else, or whether you are trying to find a person with the right expertise through the people search, SharePoint 2013 provides a more robust and richer social search experience than its previous versions. And the possibilities to extend the out-of-the-box capabilities must be very attractive to businesses that are for example looking to combine the social interactivity inside SharePoint with people data stored in other sources (CRM solutions, file shares, time tracking applications, etc).

Stay tuned!

It was indeed an awesome conference, well organized, but most of the times it was hard to decide which presentation to choose from the many good sessions running at the same time. Luckily (or wisely), we had more than one Findwizard on location!

This post is part of our series of reports from the SharePoint 2012 Conference. Keep an eye on the Findability blog for part two of our report from the biggest SharePoint conference of 2012!

Search in SharePoint 2013

There has been a lot of buzz about the upcoming release of Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013, how about the search in SharePoint 2013? The SharePoint Server 2013 Preview has been available for download since July this year, and a few days ago the new SharePoint has reached Release to Manufacturing (RTM) with general availability expected for the first quarter of 2013.

If you currently have an implementation of SharePoint in your company, you are probably wondering what the new SharePoint can add to your business. Microsoft’s catchphrase for the new SharePoint is that “SharePoint 2013 is the new way to work together”. If you look at it from a tech perspective, amongst other features, SharePoint 2013 introduces a cloud app model and marketplace, a redesign of the user experience, an expansion of collaboration tools with social features (such as microblogging and activity feeds), and enhanced search functionality. There are also some features that have been deprecated or removed in the new product, and you can check these on TechNet.

Let’s skip now to the new search experience provided out-of-the-box by SharePoint 2013. The new product revolves around the user more than ever, and that can be seen in search as well. Here are just a few of the new or improved functionalities. A hover panel to the right of a search result allows users to quickly inspect content. For example, it allows users to preview a document and take actions based on document type. Users can find and navigate to past search results from the query suggestions box, and previously clicked results are promoted in the results ranking. The refiners panel now reflects more accurately the entities in your content (deep refiners) and visual refiners are available out-of-the-box. Social recommendations are powered by users’ search patterns, and video and audio have been introduced as new content types. Some of the developers reading this post will also be happy to hear that SharePoint 2013 natively supports PDF files, meaning that you are not required anymore to install a third-party iFilter to be able to index PDF files!

Search Overview in SharePoint 2013

Search results page in SharePoint 2013 – from the Microsoft Office blog

While the out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 search experience sounds exciting, you may also be wondering how much customization and extensibility opportunities you have. You can of course search content outside SharePoint and several connectors that allow you to get content from repositories such as file shares, the web, Documentum, Lotus Notes and public Exchange folders are included. Without any code, you can use the query rules to combine user searches with business rules. Also, you can associate result types with custom templates to enrich the user experience. Developers can now extend content processing and enrichment, which previously could have only be achieved using FAST Search for SharePoint. More than that, organizations have the ability to extend the search experience through a RESTful API.

This post does not cover all the functionalities and if you would like to read more about what changes the new SharePoint release brings, you can start by checking the TechNet material and following the SharePoint Team Blog and the Findwise Findability Blog, and then get in touch with us if you are considering implementing SharePoint 2013 in your organization or company.

Findwise will attend the SharePoint Conference 2012 in Las Vegas USA between 12-15 November and this will be a great opportunity to learn more about the upcoming SharePoint. We will report from the conference from a findability and enterprise search perspective. Findwise has years of experience in working with FAST ESP and SharePoint, and is looking forward to discussing how SharePoint 2013 can help you in your future enterprise search implementation.

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.

SPC09 Day 2 – FAST Search for SharePoint Made “SharePoint Easy”

After a great evening with Microsoft Sweden touring around Las Vegas, having dinner at the Stratosphere and a good night sleep today’s session started of. Today’s focus has been deep dives in to the different areas. For me it has been deep dives in Sharepoint Search and FAST Search for Sharepoint.

First of was sessions about Sharepoint Search functions and depolyment. This was more or less going through the different functionality that I wrote about yesterday. A thew new things did thou come up, things like crawler policy’s, avoiding that your index is empties just because the web site that you crawl is on service during crawl time, connector framework that now supports developing connectors in .NET and configuration of the whole search service through PowerShell.

But now to the more exiting thing, FAST Search for SharePoint 2010. This something that it has been really quite about. It has gone 18 months since the acquisition of FAST and during that time not much information about the upcoming version has leaked out. But from yesterday everything is made public. There is even gona come a public beta of FAST Search for SharePoint in November for everyone to test it out.

The most exiting thing about this new version of FAST is that it’s almost completely integrated within SharePoint. With almost is that the installation of FAST is still done on separated servers and has it’s own installation program, though simplified. But after completion of installation and node setup (done in a deployment.xml config file) everything is done in the SharePoint central administration interface or through PowerShell. There is not even the possibility any longer to make configurations through config files in the installation of FAST. Some more advanced configurations and extensions can be made through .NET libraries and PowerShell, for example document processing steps. I will know more about this after tomorrows sessions.

Connectors in new FAST are no longer used as before. They are integrated into SharePoint instead. It’s even the same connector for SharePoint search and FAST Search for SharePoint. Setup is done in the same way to ease the transition from SharePoint Search to FAST.

People search in SharePoint 2010 will, even though you use FAST Search For SharePoint, be handled by SharePoint search. And as Jeff Fried sad “why try to set this up in FAST Search for SharePoint when the people search in SharePoint already is amazing”.

Now it’s time for one of the biggest beach parties that Las Vegas ever has hosted here at Mandal Bay Hotel. Over 7000 crazy SharePoint geeks are going to rock there pants of to the sound of the 80’s.

SPC09 Day 1 (Las Vegas) – A New Choice in Enterprise Search

Today the initial key notes and session on the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 has begun here in Las Vegas. The conference is fully booked with over 7400 registered attendees and is hosted at the Mandala Bay Hotel. There are over 240 different sessions covering everything within the new version of SharePoint 2010. SharePoint 2010 is schedules to be released during the first half of next year however a public beta will be available now in November. I will try to cover the Enterprise Search perspective of this conference and summarize new features and functions in this blog.

The conference was started up through two key notes held by among others Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) and Jeff Teper (VP). They introduces new features in SharePoint 2010 on all levels from both really deep technical to end user perspective. Showing a lot of new cool features, where one feature was especially sticking out and that was Search. They all pointed out over and over again the importance of search as the core functionality of everything.

Enterprise Search

My first sessions during this conference was on Enterprise Search and the overview of this. A lot of new concepts and functions are introduced. I will try here to summarize some of the new functions in a list.

Sharepoint 2010 and Search Server 2010 (Not all is supported in Search Server)

  • Wildcard search support
  • Phonetic Spelling on person name searches
  • Partitioned index/query (for scaling purposes)
  • Support for up to 100 Million documents
  • Zero query search – Used for using search as navigation
  • Query Suggestion
  • Refinement from meta data (Shallow navigators)
  • Related Searches
  • Federate Searches with Desktop
  • Rating/Language used for relevance tuning
  • View related content in people search
  • Multiple crawler

FAST Search for SharePoint

  • All above from SharePoint searches (some times they are even supposed to work together like people search is still done through SharePoint search)
  • Visual preview and thumbnails
  • Same APIs as SharePoint
  • All administration is done through SharePoint administration
  • Similar results
  • Deep refinement navigators
  • Entity extraction
  • Visual Best bet
  • Contextual Search
  • No index profile any more. Everything is set through SharePoint administration even Navigators and meta data mappings.
  • Can use BCS for connecting to other systems
  • User context searching. Promote/denote documents and changing relevance after users context
  • New search interface

That was a summary of the new features that is to come. I will come back every day to post updates and more detailed information about these features. To finish of I want to quote Microsoft: This is a quantum leap in Enterprise Search.