There's a phrase - "Enterprise Search" - which summarises the next step in effective use of technologies for collaboration, data sharing and making your institutional memory more accessible. By this I mean, when anybody in your institutions publishes a piece of information that they want to share, you need to make that information available to other people in an easy way - a way that doesn't require them to remember where that information is stored. Another step in journey towards improved information availability is the expanding range of options available to help you to search your internal IT systems.

I wonder how many people know about our Search story for the enterprise? It seems that it's mostly the SharePoint enthusiasts and not many others.  This is likely to change following our recent launch of our new Microsoft Search Server (MSS) 2008 - there's plenty of information on this at: www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch

At IT Forum today Richard Riley talked us through the two flavours of search available, which are:

  • Microsoft Search Server (MSS), which has a cost associated, and MSS Express (MSSX) which is free.  Both only take less than an hour to install and configure and then away they go and trawl your information resources to create a full, enterprise aware search capability that your users can start getting the benefits of immediately.
  • MSS 2008 is built on WSS 3.0 (Windows SharePoint Services 2007)

The big area of investment in MSS 2008 is Federation.  This means that it will display the results from other search engines or applications displayed alongside local results.  MSS will send a query to other search engines or data query services and format them for the user.

  • It uses OpenSearch 1.0/1.1
  • To add a new federated search location is remarkably simple.  For instance to add a new location like Yahoo simply take the URL from a search on Yahoo and for the search term simply edit the URL and insert {searchTerm} and away you go. Richard did this live in the event and it did look simple. 
  • And there are ways to search sites which don't support OpenSearch - like Wikipedia - that uses another search engine (eg Live Search) as the intermediary.
  • If the search locations is not supported by MSS out of the box then build or buy a connector - and we've created a forum to share connectors others build.
  • Authentication is integral to MSS which means that you can enable the search to recognise users' authentication settings to access pools of information be they file based or application, such as database, related.

The benefit of Federated search is that you can anticipate that users may be intending to find a wide range of information. Somebody searching within your institution for "wi fi" could be looking for information on how to connect to your wi fi on campus (likely to be on your internal portal), or they could simply be trying to understand what wi fi means. You can also use this method to search your internal SharePoint and your own public-facing website, which may be hosted on a completely different IT system.

Some of the launch partners with connectors are OpenText, Business Objects, Cognos and Symantec plus around 10+ others.