Earlier this year, Joining Dots ran a series of Enterprise Search workshops for Microsoft UK. Its purpose was to help organisations explore what enterprise search means and what Microsoft technologies can do to help implement an effective search solution.
The workshop consisted of four sessions, containing a mix of presentations, hands-on demonstrations and plenty of discussion. Here is part 1:
Part 1 was all about setting the scene. First, exploring 'what is enterprise search?' Second, an introduction to the current products in Microsoft's search portfolio. Note: at the time, the FAST acquisition had not completed.
Key messages from the presentation:
- The most common question asked is 'Why can't our search be just like searching on Google?' To begin answering that question, we need to define enterprise search - fundamentally different to Internet search. One of the challenges within many organisations has been that there is no dedicated focus on improving search. Instead it is often a feature of a larger project, such as an intranet replacement or new document management system. Before Google came along, that's how the major Internet portals treated search...
- Enterprise search technologies usually fit in one of three layers:
- The simplest solutions help find what you know exists. Products are either free or low-cost and focus on 'unstructured' content, i.e. documents, email and web pages. Desktop search is available from the likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. Network search tools include Microsoft Search Server, Google Mini Appliance and IBM/Yahoo Ominfind
- The mid-tier typically provides a base platform for enterprise search, relatively inexpensive and focused on common requirements. Solutions should include security trimming (filtering results based on who you are and what you have permission to see) and indexing multiple sources of content. Some solutions start to move beyond unstructured content to also include people search (directories and social networks) and structured data (integrating business applications). This is the hunting ground for SharePoint Server 2007 and the Google Search Appliance.
- The top-tier provides advanced indexing and search capabilities, such as automatic classification of content, concept-driven search interfaces and integration with business intelligence tools. Leaders in this space include Autonomy, Endeca and FAST.
- Whilst advanced search is often the goal, many organisations would benefit from first identifying what content needs to be found. Is it just about documents? How accessible are those documents? And should enterprise search also include business applications and the ability to find people? We often prefer to seek answers from each other in the workplace... These are all questions that need to be answered if you want to implement an effective enterprise search solution.
- Microsoft products and services span three areas of search: the web (Live.com), the desktop (Windows Desktop Search) and the intranet/company web sites (SharePoint Server 2007 and Search Server 2008)
- Intranet search includes the ability to find documents, business data and people. Federated connectors enable results to be returned not only from multiple different content sources but also from multiple different indexes. The table in the presentation shows what features are available per product.
- Desktop search enables individuals to query their own content, such as private email and locally-stored documents - content that is often difficult to access by intranet search tools.
- Web search trends are worth following to see what's likely to be coming down the line for enterprise search. On Live.com, concept-driven results enable you to refine your search query. If you do a search for videos, hovering over the video will start it playing inside your web browser...
To download a copy of the presentation (3.3Mb): MS-Search-Pt1.pdf