Unveiled and Free, Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express

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At the Enterprise Search Summit in San Jose, Microsoft unveiled it's newest Search product - Microsoft Search Server 2008. Right along with the full version, they have offered a free version called Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express.

Search Server 2008 Express Overview

First of all, this is a Microsoft Release Candidate (which basically means it's half a step away from being the official release). The final version of Microsoft Search Server 2008 (MSS) will be released in the first half of Q1 2008 (and one assumes the Express - MSSX - version will fall in line with that date).There are two major differences between MSS and MSSX:* one is free (MSSX) and one requires licenses (MSS)* MSSX can only be installed on a single server - you can't distribute the components across multiple servers in a farm like you can with the licensed version.Other than that, the versions are the same.MSSX is an enterprise level search engine with some of the following features:* Ease of use* OpenSearch 1.0/1.1 compliant* Out of the box relevancy* Relevancy tuning* Security trimmed search results* Removal of pre-set document limits* Federated searches* Out of the box indexing connectors and Search iFilters* Extensible search experience using SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio* Out of the box Administration and Reporting* Runs on Windows 2003 and 2008* Requires Windows SharePoint Service 3.0 (WSS) be installed (and everything that goes along with that - .Net Framework 3.0, ASP.Net 2.0)

MSSX and MOSS - Beware!

Here's an important note: Do not install this software on the same server as SharePoint Server 2007. MSS is MOSS Search on steroids. The product is based on the search in SharePoint Server with some improvements. Microsoft has said it will release an upgrade to MOSS Search when the official release of MSS occurs. So if you have MOSS installed and still want to try this Express version, install it on a separate server.

MSSX and Federation

One of the best capabilities of MSSX is it's ability to perform federated searches. In this case, an Administrator can set up a federated search by creating a Federated Location Definition (FDL).An FDL is an XML file that tells the query server where to run the query and how to execute it. What this means is that MSSX is not doing the actual indexing of the content on a remote server, but instead is contacting the search engine, passing along the query request and getting back a result set. This result set is then displayed in a separate web part on the screen.In on the federated search game are companies like EMC, Cognos, HP, Business Objects, SAP, and OpenText (among others) who have already announced their intent to support federation with MSS and MSSX.For now, you can download some free sample connectors from several News, Media, and Blog sites like Technorati, Flickr, Wired, and MSDN. Most of these will be released with the official versions next year.SharePoint Solution PackagesThese connectors must return results in XML, RSS, or ATOM, as these formats are supported out the box. What if you want to search some content that doesn't support these formats, like Exchange? Enter the ever faithful SharePoint Solution Providers. These guys are already in the process of creating aspx connector pages that will read the search results in whatever format they arrive in and put them in webparts for display.

The Differentiator

The biggest differentiator that MSSX has over the competition is it's ability to trim search results based on the user (not the audience). Access rights and permissions are checked once on the federated search engine and then again when displayed with the SharePoint webpart. To do this, the security rules are indexed along with the data and these rules are passed back in the XML result.All in all, this free version sounds like a gold mine for most companies. But does it resolve some of the issues with SharePoint Server search (like indexing pages with query strings)? Hmmm, maybe we'll take a test drive and see how good it really is. Stay tuned!If you want to try it out yourself, let us know how you made out.