FAST: Bring on the Microsoft Linux-Unix Ties

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) may provide a jolt to the company’s Windows-only culture — and not the kind you get from Jolt Cola.

Microsoft’s FAST purchase, which closed Friday, gives it one of the premier enterprise search players, and a search platform that, in addition to Windows, supports rival operating systems Linux and Unix.

“FAST ESP provides best-in-class capabilities for the most demanding search applications … and you can be assured that with our expanded team in place, we’ll be in an even better position to continue innovation across all three products, including FAST ESP on Linux and UNIX,” Kirk Koenigsbauer, general manager of the SharePoint Business group, said Friday in a posting on the Microsoft Enterprise Search Blog.

You could almost hear a collective “gulp” coming from Redmond. After all, the purchase of a company that supports Linux/Unit would seem to go against the company’s DNA, wouldn’t it?

Not necessarily, said Koenigsbauer.

“Speaking of Linux and UNIX, some people may be (mis)interpreting our continued support and investment in these platforms as a broader change for Microsoft – so here’s some color. We’re making a pragmatic decision to continue to delight a core part of FAST’s customer base that has chosen the Linux/Unix OS,” he wrote.

However, he did reveal a little of the company’s historic Windows jingoism with what he said next.

“You can bet that we’ll innovate on Windows, too, and over time we hope customers will see .NET as a preferred platform choice.”

Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Norwegian independent software vendor FAST in a friendly buyout in early January for $1.2 billion in cash.

When the buyout was announced, one analyst saw the purchase as a strategic decision for Microsoft — aimed at improving its capabilities for helping users search their corporate information.

“FAST has quite a tool box of capabilities including geo-location and rich media support,” IDC analyst Sue Feldman told in January. She said search can be “endlessly useful” in the enterprise and that companies like FAST and competitors such as Autonomy and Exalead are addressing the need of enterprise customers to access transactional, sales, Web and documents in a unified way.

David Needle contributed to this report.

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