Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The Vikings are in GOOG's rear mirror and coming up FAST

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 10, 2007

FAST Search and Transfer has suddenly popped into my sphere of attention and I mean really popped. I got to spend some time at FAST's user conference at the end of last week, and it was an educational experience that got me interested in search again.

This Norwegian based enterprise software search company has made the subject of search compelling again. For too long GOOG has made it appear as if it had already won the search wars--anything better would be an incremental improvement.

Yet enterprise search--which is where FAST has staked its expertise--is a much more interesting subject than I imagined, and much more interesting than consumer search. Enterprise search is much more difficult problem, and one of the most challenging problems in IT.

Consumer search can be vague and still be successful. It can bring up a list of nearly relevant sites or documents, and usually that is all that is needed. But in the enterprise, search is usually needed to find something very specific, a contract, a purchase order, a memo. 

And there are all sorts of conditions associated with access to data, some security based, others are regulatory. Search quickly becomes quite a complex process and one that can lead to other things.

Enterprises use a lot of structured data, but there is also a massive amount of unstructured data too. Search in the enterprise could potentially bring the two data world's together.

You might even be able to create enterprise applications by using modified search algorithms.

This type of scenario gets very interesting: enterprise applications by algorithm. This is already happening in business intelligence, I wonder how far, in theory, such an approach could be taken. Could you create CRM applications through search algorithms?

I'll be writing more about this subject, and FAST, over the next few days.

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