Enterprise Search the Microsoft way – probably the definitive book

by | Nov 10, 2010 | Intranets

There are very few books on enterprise search. Most of them have been written by academics for academics, and most software engineers would find little of value in them. Professional Microsoft Search, just published by Wrox, is a very different book, the result of many months of work by a quartet of authors. Mark Bennett and Miles Kehoe are the co-founders of New Idea Engineering Inc. Jeff Fried is a senior manager at Microsoft and Natalya Voskresenskaya specialises in delivering SharePoint search solutions.

The book will delight, and rescue, search development engineers seeking to get the best from SharePoint 2010 Search, FAST Search for SharePoint and FAST ESP. Chapter 1 is a very clear introduction to enterprise search, and Chapter 2 sets out the need to take a strategic view of search requirements, including some very good advice on the benefits of a Search Centre of Excellence. The next three chapters take a deep dive into the implementation of SharePoint 2010 Search,  FAST Search for SharePoint, and search customisation. These chapters are just a prelude to over 70 pages on FAST ESP 5.3. The final set of chapters cover Search 2.0 issues, including search from a business intelligence perspective. Throughout the book there are screen shots (some quite difficult to read) and there are code examples which can be downloaded from Wrox.com. There is also an associated web site

Now if you are reading this blog you are almost certainly not a software enginner, and probably have no interest in the inner workings of high-end enterprise search applications. You may (!) be a very happy IDOL customer. However even if you only benefit from 100 of the 480 pages in this book it will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf. There are three reasons for this. First, all four of the authors have considerable search implementation experience, and in the case of Mark and Miles in particular this extends way beyond Microsoft search products. The result is a well-balanced book that does not skip over some difficult issues. Secondly this book illustrates the complexity of search, and the need for organisations to invest in the skills needed to get the best from what will already have been a significant investment. The third reason is that throughout the book there are low-tech insights on aspects of search that will be of interest to any intranet managers who has a responsibility for search. As an example, the section on federated search on pp179 to 187 is a model of clarity on the benefits and challenges. However I would like to have seen a section on the use of query logs to support search enhancement through relevance tuning.

I can only hazard a guess at the amount of work that went into this book, a serious challenge for the three authors not earning a salary from Microsoft. The search community is very much in their debt. As I read through this book I did come to realise just how much I still have to learn about enterprise search technology. A chapter a month over the next year would be time well spent for me, and for you.