Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Microsoft Seeking FAST Entry to Enterprise Search

The Redmond-based software giant offered to buy FAST Search & Transfer at a 42 percent premium above their current share price, for a total of $1.2 billion. The move is a validation of FAST’s technology and will propel Microsoft’s foray into enterprise search. Initial integration efforts will likely start with the MOSS 2007 (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) group because the acquisition will fortify SharePoint’s fledgling search offering, by injecting FAST’s enterprise-class search capabilities, but don’t expect rapid results.

SharePoint’s inside the firewall content management and business collaboration capabilities will be greatly enhanced by FAST’s ability to search disparate databases to aid in information retrieval. These capabilities benefit a substantial portion of FAST’s current customer base, which is comprised of publishing companies such as Comtex News Network, MediaNews Group, NewsBank, Reed Business, and the Washington Post among others, where FAST has established its credibility for searching copious data sources. However, the long-term goldmine for Microsoft may be in the business intelligence capabilities inherent to the FAST solution, which could be incorporated into the SharePoint platform.

Additionally, Microsoft’s acquisition strategy may be an attempt to fend off Google’s growing reign in consumer search markets and entry into enterprise search. Although FAST’s business-to-consumer client base is proportionately smaller, they help companies such as BestBuy and AutoTrader to facilitate product search and discovery. The acquisition would expose FAST to a larger global market and potentially open the technology to new consumer-facing applications.

Yet, one potential downside is that FAST may be stifled by the 800 pound gorilla that is Microsoft and find that their development and small company mentality is well…not so fast anymore. The deal is expected to close sometime in the second quarter and integration could lag well behind that establishing a timeline that easily extends 12 to 18 months.

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