FAST tunes up enterprise search software

Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST) has updated its line of enterprise search software, offering new search management tools and the ability to interactively drill-down on query results.

The FAST Data Search 3.2 product line offers a significant upgrade to the Oslo, Norway company’s corporate search offerings, and underscores the firm’s focus on the enterprise market, according to John Felahi, director of product marketing at FAST.

“We think this product (line) has made great strides and will really push us in the lead,” Felahi said.

The enhanced enterprise line comes just one month after the company agreed to sell its Web search unit to pay-for-placement search provider Overture Services Inc.

With corporate customers clearly in its sights, FAST is rolling out updated versions of its FAST Data Search Professional, FAST Data Search Enterprise and FAST Data Search SST software.

But although Felahi characterized the upgrades as having significant enhancements, Gartner Inc. research director Whit Andrews said that they will not change the landscape of the market.

However, he said that FAST is “absolutely going in the right direction and has a robust and mature product.”

The Professional software is aimed at departmental or single-project use, whereas the Enterprise edition provides industry-wide and industrial capabilities. The SST version is geared toward financial and media industries, which require access to real-time information. For example, news provider Reuters Group PLC uses the SST version and its contract stipulates that data has to be searchable within one second of being entered into the system, Felahi said.

All three software products boast new Live Analytics features which allow users to “drill down” into search results and find specific information based on the data in the results.

“This is really a major release for functionality,” Felahi said, adding that the live analytics feature offers better information retrieval and presentation.

The company is also offering customers the ability to better manage their search capabilities with a new Business Manager Control Panel. This interface allows users to make certain data appear higher or lower within search results. Managers can ensure that a new product appears at the top of a search ranking, for instance, and that older products appear further down. The Control Panel comes with the SST software, but is optional with the Professional and Enterprise editions, Felahi said.

The updated product line also features enhanced document categorization, result clustering, and structured and unstructured data capabilities, as well as Japanese linguistics support and new support for HP-UX and Red Hat Inc.’s Linux Advanced Server.

While FAST and other search providers have worked to improve their functionality, companies have trouble in general learning to use enterprise search products, Andrews said, noting that this has hindered the industry “spectacularly.”

Still, he added that FAST is gaining attention from both companies and rivals as it continues to improve its product line.

FAST Data Search 3.2 will be available worldwide Monday through both FAST and its channel partners. FAST Data Search Professional starts at US$120,000, Felahi said. For Enterprise and SST software pricing, customers must contact a sales representative, he added.

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