Microsoft Enterprise Search 101: Technology and SKU breakdown

I wrote a short article about Microsoft Enterprise Search a little while ago. Now that there have been some recent announcements, I thought I'd provide a short overview of how all the Microsoft search technologies come together.

For starters, here's the landing page for enterprise search. There's a good whitepaper that describes the different investments that my team co-authored.

Getting straight down to the technology, there are 3 core Enterprise Search scenarios: Desktop, Intranet and Internet search.

Microsoft's desktop search solution has Windows Desktop Search (WDS) at the core. WDS is a Windows component and provides a search platform that partners and other applications can build upon. WDS is available today for download and has received rave reviews.

2 great examples of applications that build on top of WDS are Outlook 2007 and Windows Live Search Center. Outlook 2007 provides inline search with a great user experience including features like query hit highlighting. Windows Live Search Center, which was very recently announced, aggregates search results from the desktop, Intranet and Internet providing Information Workers one view of all search results irrespective of where the content lives. It provides out of the box integration with SharePoint search and The search results can be ordered any way you'd like and be acted upon immediately - including things like rich preview.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Vista has a great search experience natively in the OS and uses WDS as well. Vista, in addition to providing search capability everywhere, will provide a rich user experience for organizing and acting on information. Any extentions and custom apps written on WDS today will work on Vista!

One thing that's very important to note is that these desktop search applications are built on WDS so that means one single index on the desktop!

In recap:

1. Windows Desktop Search - a windows component that is available today
2. Windows Live Search Center - beta will be shortly available and builds on top of WDS.
3. Vista & Office 2007 - ETA is end of year; search technology builds on top of WDS.

The Microsoft search solution for content across the Enterprise is Office SharePoint Server 2007. Office SharePoint Server 2007 will be available in the Office 2007 timeframe (end of calendar year). SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (available today) provides Enterprise search.

In a nutshell, SharePoint search crawls file shares, SharePoint sites, Exchange Public Folders, Lotus Notes Databases and web sites (built on any technology) out-of-the-box. In SharePoint Server 2007, we introduce a new feature called the Business Data Catalog (BDC), that provides the ability to search structured LOB systems like SAP, Siebel, any database, et cetera. SharePoint Server has provides a great user experience, extensible framework and the relevancy has improved greatly from SPS 2003!

Also, irrespective of which SKU you choose for search, the SharePoint search technology uses the same common full-text search engine technology that WDS uses. This means that the same extensibility components written for WDS can be used for SharePoint search.

It's important to note that there are different SKUs available that contain SharePoint search. Depending on your business needs, you want to explore the following.

1. SharePoint Server for Search. This is a "Search SKU" and the licensing model is dollars/server. It comes in two versions (Standard and Enterprise) and depending on the number of documents, you want to choose the appropriate one. This SKU builds on top of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) v3 and has all the extensibility that SPS 2003 has today. There's also an upgrade path from the search SKU to the Standard and Enterprise versions of SharePoint Server.

2. SharePoint Server w/ Standard CAL. This is a Server/CAL licensing model and provides a lot more functionality across the board than the "search SKU". This is also built on WSS v3 and gives you portal and enterprise content management features (for specifics on what SharePoint Server provides, read this post). From a search perspective, this adds the ability to search people and introduces a new extensibility and UI experience known as the Search Center. People search can be enhanced with Knowledge Network for SharePoint which is an add-on if you own this SKU.

3. SharePoint Server w/ Enterprise CAL. This is a Server/CAL liecnsing model and in addition to the capabilities provided w/ Standard, this provides rich Business Intelligence and Forms capabilities. From a search perspective, above and beyond what Standard provides, this introduces a new feature known as the Business Data Catalog (BDC) that allows you to easily search structured LOB systems without writing code. Out of the box, we plan to provide integration with SAP and Seibel as well as any database via ADO.NET. Any LOB system that exposes information via XML Web Services can be connected to.

Please note: While #2 and #3 provide search functionality, they provide rich Information management features that helps information workers share, collaborate, find and retain information end-to-end. It's more than search!

In recap (all will be available in the Office 2007 timeframe):

1. Office SharePoint Server for Search follows a per server licensing model, is extensibile, crawls file shares, sharepoint sites, web sites, exchange pfs, lotus notes databases out of the box. it comes in to versions: standard and enterprise - you choose depending on how many docs. it upgrades to the other office sharepoint server skus.

2. Office SharePoint Server Standard follows a CAL/server licensing model. It provides much richer features than the search SKU. From a search perspective, it provides people search and the Search Center.

3. Office SharePoint Server Enterprise follows a CAL/server licensing mode. It provides more features than Standard such as BI and Forms. From a search perspective, it introduces the Business Data Catalog (BDC) that allows you to connect to LOB systems without writing code.

Internet Search
Internet search is provided by Live Search. If you haven't experienced the new UI and search engine, I recommend checking it out at