Microsoft Completes FAST Purchase

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Microsoft has completed its US$1.2 billion purchase of FAST Search & Transfer and will install the company's CEO as head of a newly formed enterprise search group, it said Friday.

FAST will become a subsidiary of Microsoft and its research team will be based in Oslo, Norway, according to a statement. The company's existing sales and support teams will be maintained, and there are no immediate plans to alter pricing or licensing agreements, a spokesman said.

FAST CEO John Markus Lervik will become corporate vice president of enterprise search at Microsoft, reporting to Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for the company's Office Business Platform.

Lervik's group will be charged with developing a full line of enterprise search products, ranging from the low-end Search Server 2008 Express to FAST's ESP offering. In the future, the group will develop "a single enterprise search platform" as well, according to Microsoft.

Interestingly, Microsoft is also promising to not only support but produce "further innovation" for search products on both Linux and Unix systems, as well as Windows.

"There's a significant part of the [FAST customer base] that have chosen to run their systems on Unix and Linux," said Jared Spataro, director, Microsoft Office SharePoint. "Many people thought we would err on the side of cutting those programs."

In addition, Microsoft plans to continue selling standalone products "at both the high-end and entry levels," and is planning to release a version of ESP that is "tightly coupled with SharePoint," according to Spataro.

Spataro provided no release date for the SharePoint product or any other new offerings.

When Microsoft first announced its intent to buy FAST in January, the news prompted some observers to conclude that the technology had arrived. Now the company will go up against a handful of large search players like Autonomy, as well as a wide array of small, specialized vendors. Spataro declined to comment on whether Microsoft is planning additional acquisitions.

As for FAST, search analyst Stephen Arnold previously noted in a January blog post that integrating the company's technologies won't be easy.

"First, Microsoft SharePoint is complex. The Fast Search enterprise search platform (ESP) is complex. Integrating two complex systems will be a challenge," he wrote. "Microsoft's engineers and Fast Search's engineers are up to this task. The question will be 'How long will the meshing take?'"

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