Monday, February 14, 2011

Sharepoint 2010 Search

Below is a simplified version of an MS slide showing the differences across the product family:

Improvements to Search in the core SharePoint 2010 product:

Microsoft marketing focuses on 3 target audiences with the following messages:
  • End Users with “Go beyond the search box” — improvements to the search experience, including user interfaces and ability to search from the desktop or mobile device, and a focus on people and social search.
  • IT Professionals with “Eliminate compromise between managability and capability — in other words here is a system with both best of breed search features, but also one that is easy to manage. Access both unstructured and structured content using Business Connectivity Services (BCS) and other federated search options.
  • Developers with “Do more with search — a call to action to use the available tool sets to extend the base platform and build search solutions for existing applications (e.g. ERP and CRM) but also go further and build search centric applications.
Microsoft says that they have listened to the user community and focused on solving pain points when upgrading the base SharePoint 2010 platform to improve search. This has resulted in the following enhancements:

  • Scalability – both content scalability (size of the corpus) and query performance scalability via multiple crawlers, and the ability to both partition and mirror the index.
  • Social and people search – a big element of the improvements in SP2010, allowing search to surface the tacit knowledge stored inside your people by allowing those people themselves to be found. This is heavily tied into the social side of SharePoint such as My Sites and profiles.
  • Relevance – improved algorithms for better matching and ranking capabilities and improved language support.
  • Platform – improvements to increase customization, to allow developers to extend the platform and build new applications.
  • Management & reliability – including admin webparts, scriptable admin (Windows PowerShell) and improved monitoring including SCOM support.
  • Federation – via OpenSearch with client side software including IE8, Firefox and Windows 7 plus federated providers including Bing, SharePoint 2010 and any searchable RSS feeds and SQL result sets.
  • User Experience – improved user interfaces, including 'visual' navigation, see the screen shot below:

Integration with FAST:

So what does the integration with the additional FAST Search Server product bring to the party? Well it provides a number of additional elements which you may find useful, both in an intranet scenario, if you have sophisticated requirements, but also in the external website scenario, especially if you want to build a 'guided navigation' type interface for e-Commerce for example.
In summary FAST adds the following features:
  • Thumbnails & previews and 'visual best bets'
  • Deep refiners with counts (i.e. faceted search with a results count for each facet)
  • User context from user profile and multiple relevance profiles
  • Sorting on any property and similarity search
  • Broader, better language support
  • Content processing pipeline and entity extraction
  • Tunable relevance ranking and a richer query language
Some of these elements are shown in the screen shot below:

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