Microsoft today announced its acquisition of full-text search company Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST). 

Jeff Raikes of MS is quoted in the the press release: “Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly. Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and FAST gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs.” [Background: FAST is a robust enterprise search tool capable of handling very large data sets. I know of at least two legal market suppliers that use the FAST engine.]

What surprises me most is that “mainstream, infrastructure solutions” do not already offer robust enterprise search. It’s easier to manage and analyze numbers, but there is a lot more data and knowledge embedded in text.

I hope that this acquisition does not augur a consolidation in search vendors and technology. In my opinion, what’s needed more than tight infrastructure integration is a conceptual breakthrough in semantic processing and natural language processing. I agree with Craig Carpenter, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Recommind who commented that the value of “customized search applications (for eDiscovery, for BI, for expertise location, etc.) will grow dramatically as vendors like MSFT improve the ‘basic’ search they offer baked into their platform products.”