SharePoint Search: The Answers May Be Here and the Check Is in the Mail

May 1, 2008

A Microsoft wizard named Dan Blood, a senior tester working in the product group that is responsible for search within MOSS and MSS, says that he will use the Microsoft Enterprise Search Blog “to provide details on the lessons that we [his Microsoft unit] have learned.” The topics Mr. Blood, a senior tester working in the search product group, include (and I paraphrase):

  • His actions to optimize MOSS and MSS
  • Information about optimizing index refreshes; that is, make sure the 28 million documents in his test set are “freshly indexed”
  • Configuration of the SQL machine that underpins MOSS and MSS
  • Monitoring actions to make sure the search system is healthy.


My hunch is that you may not know what MOSS and MSS mean. I’m no expert on things Microsoft, but let me provide my take on these search systems. MSS is an acronym for Microsoft Search Server. MOSS is an acronym for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. MSS originated as the search subsystem from within the more comprehensive MOSS system, given a smattering of improvements, then packaged as a separate service. Microsoft plans to eventually roll these improvements back into the MOSS line.

sharepoint search

This image comes from You can read another take on this product here.

Following the Microsoft links, I landed here. This Web page explains as I read it that these search products as of April 30, 2008, are:

  1. Microsoft Search Server 2008. “Enterprise ready”. I presume this is MSS, although the acronym does not appear on this page. You can download a 180-day trial here. You will need a Windows Live ID to get this product. You also need Windows Server 2003, The Dot Net Framework 3.0 with ASP Dot Net 2.0 enabled, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, and the Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Runtime components. A run down of the features of this search system are here. If you want to learn more about my take of this search system, dig up a copy of Enterprise Search Report, 3rd edition. After installing these products, I’m skeptical about how enterprise ready I will be, however. I’m certain the search system is better than the one I tested last year. (However, that begs the question, “If enterprise ready, why buy Fast Search & Transfer?” That’s something I will need to ponder. You, of course, can jump right to this product based on your greater familiarity with Microsoft server systems.)
  2. Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express. “Quick, easy, and powerful”. This is free and you can download the product here. Details of this product are here, but I think the principal difference between this product and the others is that it is designed for a single user despite the reassuring lingo that promises a “federated search connector” and upgrades to MOSS or MSS.
  3. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. “Find and act on your information.” This product searches “your information” so I think its search facets are similar to Search Express but MOSS can access structured data in a relational database like SQLServer. You can download a 180-day trial here. This product comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions and you will need to have Windows Server 2003, but no Windows Live ID.

I am almost 99 percent certain that I haven’t fixed each of these products and their dependent server systems in my mind. Nevertheless, the revivified Web log will (one hopes) explain these products and ways to make them purr like kittens. But if the past is any indicator of what will be covered, some content changes may be needed.

MESB’s Coverage from September 2007 to the Present

I recall looking at this Web log several times. I looked at the first post on September 2007 and then killed it because there were too few posts, and the information, although useful, had 28 postings in 243 days. Among the postings I noted since the Web log’s inception last year were:

  • Forrester Research Report: Microsoft Drives a Wedge between High and Low-End Enterprise Search. The ever-inventive Forrester came up with a Mr. Softee confection that left a bitter taste in my mouth, but that’s just an old Booz, Allen & Hamilton guy comparing once consultancy’s work to another firm’s work.
  • How to Enable Faceted Search in Search Server 2008 and SharePoint Server 2007 Search, an article which would certainly catch the attention of the Endeca legal eagles who flock to people who use Endeca’s lingo to describe a function closely-associated with Endeca’s search solution
  • Partner Spotlight which is an essay about “Enterprise Search and Visual Composite Applications”, which I think is similar to some of Google’s older map functionality.
  • An announcement in January 2008 that Microsoft would acquire Fast Search & Transfer. The information was useful, but the analysis did not address the questions SharePoint customers have about what will happen to their beloved MOSS and MSS when the Fast ESP solution becomes available.
  • The March 2008 essay “Delivering on the Promise of Enterprise Search for the Masses” because it jarred me into thinking about the difference between single user desktop search, departmental search within a security perimeter and outside a security perimeter, and the behind-the-firewall search discussed in my new study Beyond Search. This essay just did not resonate with me, nor did it advance my understanding of MOSS and MSS, Microsoft desktop search, the search function in Xbox, the search functions in other Microsoft products such as Dynamics 3.0, etc.

My hope is that Mr. Blood’s Web log will track what Joe McKendrick touches upon in his ZDNet Web log here and some of the other Microsoft watchers provide to clarify, instruct, and manage the beastie that is SharePoint search.

What about Cerified Gold Partners

At this time, there are some snap in options for SharePoint users who want to find information in the SharePoint system, Office servers, and SQLServer data tables. I cover most of the options in Beyond Search. I don’t want to rehash what I have already written about these star products: Coveo, Exalead, Google Search Appliance, ISYS Search Software, Siderean, Thunderstone Appliance, and about a half dozen others.

With the upheavals associated with the Fast Search & Transfer acquisition plus the Ray Ozzie “mesh” initiative, there will be some rumbles in the certified partner jungles. Initially, there won’t be much change. A SharePoint customer wanting search that works without too much hassle will go to one of the vendors I just named. However, as the great digital shopkeeper in Redmond gets its products in order, the certified partners are in real danger of being squeezed out of the SharePoint sales game.

I don’t think that some of these vendors will be adversely affected. Several have already diversified away from SharePoint specific systems. Others have capable software engineers who can deal with almost any technical wackiness that Microsoft cares to deploy.

Those most directly affected will be the licensing organizations’ system administrators and information technology professionals. These people will have to undergo Microsoft training and then figure out exactly what path to follow. Does the organization drink the Microsoft Kool Aid? Does the organization embrace a third-party solution? Does the organization dabble in the cloud with the dark force of Googzilla, or does the organization trust to Ray Ozzie’s technical acumen expressed in “plans”, not products and services?

Bottom line is that partners are okay going forward. Not so okay are the information professionals on a licensing organization’s payroll. The big winners, however, will be the consultants. No matter what Microsoft does, the consultants can feed at the trough of confusion and complexity.

Some Observations

With several interesting conversations fresh in my mind after the Boston Search Engine Meeting this week, I want to offer several observations. As always, I welcome feedback, particularly in the public comment section. In the last two weeks, some people have written me directly, and I much prefer open criticism of my understanding of the facts and my point of view. I may be doddering toward the assisted living home, but I am willing to learn. I like to learn from perky consultants who have only second-hand information and a handful of years’ experience under their belts. Even more interesting are the jejune lads and lasses who find my willingness to talk about search realities as “flames” or “aggressive behavior”. Goodness, I don’t want to wilt these darlings’ sense of self esteem, but I guess that happens when the blood flow to the brain slows.

Now the observations:

  1. These “flavors” of search are confusing to me. I think this set of self-similar acronyms is a way to sell a boat load of other Microsoft server builds. Maybe I don’t understand the bigger picture here, but I’m not sure that these different products can be reconciled because enterprise search licenses affect revenues in other Microsoft divisions. To change the model is to invoke the ire of a product manager for a dependent server required to make search work at all.
  2. A person without Microsoft expertise is going to have a hard time getting these gizmos and their inner components working harmoniously. I thought that some of the brand-name systems were complicated. The MSS and MOSS plus their dependent servers make even the wild and crazy stuff from vendors pushing products with 1980 and 1990 code bases look simple.
  3. Tossing Fast ESP (enterprise search platform) into this mix is going to increase complexity before reducing complexity. I have precious little knowledge of the magic that lurks inside Fast ESP. But based on what little I do know, Fast Search is a Web search foundation that has been given the digital equivalent of a West Coast Custom’s automobile rebuild. There’s new stuff plus third-party add ons. The result is very cool, but it’s often tough to fix at the local auto repair shop.
  4. The Microsoft “mesh” initiative which you can read about here and here is potentially disruptive of the MSS and MOSS system. MSS and MOSS are certainly not cloud-ready, nor would I want to try and figure out how to run a secure enterprise search system based on MSS and MOSS plus other Microsoft servers from my local hosting provider’s data center. I live in rural Kentucky, so the technical expertise is pretty thin compared to the brain centers in Seattle. But if I were in Seattle, I’m not sure I would poke my hands into this morass of Dot Net, multiple servers, federating connectors, etc. Since “mesh” is largely concept, I am confident that I will be in my grave before the search kittens purr. Microsoft offers some interesting downloads, including the interesting Mesh Connectivity Layer Documentation here.

Let’s recap. We have a Web log by Microsoft’s Dan Blood. We have acronyms. We have Web pages that are a bit inconsistent in nomenclature. We have a track record of Web log postings that are mostly PR fluff. We have three Microsoft products plus we have one Fast ESP. We have dependencies. We have the new mesh.

Okay, 30-somethings. Help me understand what I am unable to understand. Maybe ESP (extra sensory perception) is going to be needed for me to internalize the greater beauties of ESP, the enterprise search platform. My personal view is that there is no MSS or MOSS. There’s one MESS.

Stephen Arnold, May 1, 2008


2 Responses to “SharePoint Search: The Answers May Be Here and the Check Is in the Mail”

  1. Daniel Tunkelang on May 1st, 2008 11:33 pm

    I can’t speak for the “legal eagles” who work with me at Endeca, but I can say that there is more to guided summarization than faceted search. I recently delivered a presentation at the European Conference on Information Retrieval on the subject. Slides available here.

  2. The Microsoft Yahoo Fiasco: Impact on SharePoint and Web Search : Beyond Search on May 5th, 2008 8:41 am

    […] Nada. None. SharePoint search is not one thing. Read my essay about MOSS and MSS. They add up to a MESS. I’m still waiting for the well-dressed but enraged […]

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