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Microsoft Debuts Standalone Enterprise Search

Search Server 2008 Express takes on Google’s Mini Search Appliance.

Beta code of Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express became available as a free download early last month. The company plans a full Search Server offering -- through its volume license plans -- early next year. Pricing is currently unavailable.

Microsoft Search Express has no document limit, unlike Google Inc.'s appliance. But it is restricted to use on one server. Users wanting more must upgrade to the full server.

Express can connect to other applications including content management systems from EMC Documentum and IBM FileNet. That, according to Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ken Poore, makes Search Server Express a "disruptor" in enterprise search.

Search Server Express is just the latest in a tit-for-tat war of words and product releases between Microsoft and Google. Last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer conceded -- barely -- that Google leads in search, but Internet search only.

Despite Microsoft's multi-billion-dollar investment in Internet search, its share numbers have barely budged in two years. But it contends it's making headway in corporate search.

Turf War
Microsoft and Google have been eyeing each other's turf for years. Microsoft spends big in Windows Live Search in the Software as a Service (SaaS) realm that Google pioneered. Google uses its own applications and appliances as entries to enterprise accounts. It has even recruited Microsoft SharePoint partners to link the Google Search Appliance to corporate applications that are otherwise beyond its reach.

Google's low-end Mini Search Appliance costs $1,995 for up to 50,000 documents. The full-featured Search Appliance starts at $30,000 for up to 500,000 documents.

The Google Search Appliance remains mostly a black box to developers who must work with Google-provided APIs to connect it other corporate applications and data. Developers like Michael Cizmar, of MC+A, have built a good business tying Google's Search Appliance into existing corporate applications and infrastructure.

One longtime SharePoint partner conceded recently that Microsoft's attempts thus far to promote SharePoint Search as an enterprise solution have "been a joke."

Opportunity Awaits
But other Microsoft developers see a big opportunity in weaving the company's search into applications, though even they concede that Microsoft has yet to prove itself.

"If you think of search in general, Google is clearly king. Microsoft's attempts to date have been also-rans at best," says Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a Microsoft solution provider partner. "That said, having an enterprise search facility, especially in a portal platform, is important for finding documents and content, and Microsoft will try to leverage that so its enterprise search becomes a way to hit the business intelligence repositories."

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.

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