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Microsoft Delivers a Bundle of Joy

The news, which has been an open secret among enterprise search insiders for a while, is finally official: Microsoft announced at FASTForward ’09 that they will be bundling the FAST enterprise search product with their SharePoint product. To be more precise, it will be available as a $25K /server add-on for SharePoint customers. Considering the total cost of a typical SharePoint deployment, that’s practically free. Or, as Mark Bennett put it, an “aggressive price”.

Who are the winners and losers here? Unclear. Is this initiative aimed at Autonomy, Endeca, or Google? At all of the above? What are the implications for FAST’s legacy ESP 5.x customers, who have been promised 10 years of support?

My take: Microsoft sees SharePoint + FAST as a response to Autonomy + Interwoven, or vice versa–Microsoft’s acquisition predates Autonomy’s by a year. Both companies seem to believe that, in order to sell a search engine, they need to bundle it into a content management system.

Not everyone believes that. Google and Endeca are focusing on search as the main prize, not to mention a slew of smaller vendors. We may all disagree on the right way to crack the search nut, but we haven’t given up on building a better nutcracker.

Did Microsoft pay $1.3B just to upgrade SharePoint Search? I’m only a researcher, so perhaps I don’t appreciate the economics of the transaction. I’m just glad not to be the guy who will ever have to justify that decision to my manager, let alone a board of directors.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

8 replies on “Microsoft Delivers a Bundle of Joy”

Adriaan, thanks for the link. I cited Microsoft’s promise of 10 years of support for current FAST customers in my post, including those on not using Windows, let alone SharePoint. I just wonder how much Microsoft will have their hearts into supporting something they seem to be leaving behind. Yes, I work for a competitor, but I think my reaction is a reasonable one.

In any case, it seems to me (and it seems you mostly agree) that the big news is that FAST will be available as a cheap add-on for SharePoint, and that Microsoft is betting on the bundle being worth more than its parts. It’s certainly a defensible strategy, and consistent with Microsoft’s history.

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Well, that would certainly be advantageous to Endeca… but I don’t think Microsoft is going to give up on the (presumably quite profitable) eCommerce scenarios, just yet šŸ˜‰

If anything, that was one of the two major announcements (FAST for Internet Business), with a nice demo as well. It makes sense for Microsoft to more clearly define use cases for ESP and market them (FAST was always trying to be everything to everybody), and they’ve done some interesting things for the Internet Business version.

I’m going to have a close look at how Endeca, FAST and Autonomy are each supporting that scenario in different ways — it’ll be more important than ever for customers to know what the differences are.

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It will be an interesting year. Online retail is one of the few bright spots in the current economy, so I’m not surprised that FAST wants a piece of it. And, even though I think we can safely agree that Endeca is the leader in that market segment, I can assure you that none of us at Endeca are complacent about it. Especially since FAST’s “interaction management” messaging gives me and my colleagues more than a little deja vu.

To be clear, I think that FAST + SharePoint is a legitimate strategy for Microsoft, even if it’s not their only one. SharePoint has been a winner for Microsoft’s business division, and search is evidently one of its sore points. Besides, as you said, they can’t be everything to everybody.

I guess we’ll find out over the next months / years if they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

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I believe that focusing on data management is a core essential for enterprise search systems both software- and hardware-based. Ideally the search efficiency is key and it seems that appliance-accompanied solutions are the highest performing due to their optimized collection methods.

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