Enterprise Search Finds Its Way Into SharePoint

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) is getting a shot in the arm with an upgrade that will see it gain new enterprise search features, as well as better performance.

The update to MOSS 2007 comes as part of a wider rollout of usability and performance improvements to a number of Office products. Along with MOSS 2007, Project Server 2007, Project Professional 2007, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Search Server 2008 and Search Server 2008 Express each received free updates.

But MOSS’ may be the most significant, in that the product now gets enterprise search features that initially shipped in the Search Server 2008 series — including federated search capability, a move that marks continued efforts by Microsoft to capitalize on the growing market for enterprise search.

MOSS 2007’s new federated search capability enables users to search several applications or search engines simultaneously, pulling the results together into one interface.

It is based on the OpenSearch standard, a collection of technologies developed by Amazon.com subsidiary A9 that let Web sites and search engines publish search results in a standard format.

Using an open standard may make Microsoft’s products more acceptable to the market, according to one Microsoft partner.

“Unisys welcomes Microsoft’s embrace of the OpenSearch standard because our enterprise customers usually have a variety of technologies already installed, and we rely on leveraging standards where we can to simplify our solutions,” said Karl Schulmeisters, director of architecture for Unisys’ Microsoft alliance.

Schulmeisters also hailed the new injection of life to MOSS 2007 — which debuted in late 2006 — because it brings new features to users more quickly than requiring them to wait for the next generation of the product.

“I am glad to see Microsoft updating MOSS 2007 instead of requiring adoption of MOSS 2008 as the only path for implementing some of these features, because large organizations have structured processes and platform adoption strategies that restrict how quickly a new platform can be rolled out,” he told InternetNews.com.

It’s unclear when the next iteration of MOSS might debut, although Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, speaking at the annual Office SharePoint Conference in March, made a passing reference to the next release of SharePoint.

In addition to the addition of enterprise search, the new update also improves performance of the Business Data Catalog, a MOSS 2007 feature that enables IT to integrate business data from applications such as SAP or Siebel without writing any code.

MOSS, along with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, also received fixes for content deployment problems through the updates, which Microsoft termed “Infrastructure Updates” and which are available from the Microsoft download center.

The updates will “improve the stability of SharePoint Server 2007,” Mark Slavens, product manager at systems and security management solutions provider NetIQ, told InternetNews.com. Microsoft develops and issues hotfixes when there are enough customer complaints and the problems are significant enough to do so, he added.

Richard Riley, a senior technical product manager at Microsoft, told InternetNews.com that the Infrastructure Updates were “essentially regular roll-up hotfixes with a difference, in that several core platform performance updates and new search features have been rolled out with them.”

Microsoft will continue to release hotfixes as needed, although there won’t be any further Infrastructure Updates, Riley added.

The move also marks the latest effort by Microsoft in support of SharePoint. In May, the company unveiled a new program to help Software Assurance customers get access to deployment planning services.

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