Enterprise search vendor Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) has introduced the next generation of its Personal Search Platform (FAST PSP). It comprises FAST Personal Search, a new enterprise desktop application, and FAST PSP SDK, a software development kit for partners to create services and products. FAST PSP is designed to connect desktop users to all of their content—desktop files, e-mails, data from enterprise applications like CRM, premium content, and favorite Web content—with just one query. FAST PSP is intended for fairly large enterprise deployments; it costs $25,000 for the first 1,000 seats ($25 per seat). The product is best used in conjunction with the search capabilities of the FAST Enterprise Search Platform (FAST ESP), though it can be used on its own or with server-based search platforms from other vendors. (For information on FAST ESP, see the NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=15991.)
FAST first introduced PSP in October 2005, but, according to Lee Phillips, FAST's director of intelligence solutions, it just provided a toolkit for FAST's development partners. The current launch is really the first enterprise offering for PSP with a Windows application; it represents a significant step beyond its initial foray. PSP no longer uses Windows indexing technologies; these have been replaced with proprietary technologies from FAST, which, said Philips, provide much better performance and greater extensibility. He stressed that PSP was designed as an extensible platform, not a point application.
Phillips said that FAST had three fundamental design goals for PSP:
- Expand users' search horizons and provide personalized intelligence
- Increase users' productivity by leveraging connections to all existing enterprise applications
- Provide a trusted platform that could be deployed with confidence
"FAST considers the desktop a critical, underutilized component of the enterprise. Providing the ability to quickly and easily access information from the desktop will have a positive impact on an organization's bottom line and each user's contribution," said Bjorn Olstad, CTO of FAST. "FAST PSP delivers a powerful solution that increases efficiencies throughout an organization. By bringing the power of enterprise search to the desktop, end-users benefit from the personalization and superior search capabilities that only a platform solution based on FAST PSP can provide."
Industry analyst Matthew Booth of the Kelsey Group said: "We're still in the early days of search and we're starting to see some interesting applications through integrated Internet, server, and desktop systems. FAST PSP is a good example of types of applications that will become increasingly important in distributed search systems in the future."
Phillips claims that the platform and the desktop application can be deployed throughout an organization literally within minutes. But he said it is a powerful application that goes way beyond the capabilities of simple desktop search. It adheres to industry-standard security protocols and policies, enabling users to see and search only the content for which they are authorized. The application can locate information anywhere—locally, across the enterprise, or on the Web. Its search engine connectors can tap into other services and search engine front ends. Users can search the entire Web or just target specific Web sites.
The Windows-based application offers robust query tools, including Boolean expressions, keyword, fielded search, and phrases. It also supports wildcards. Users have the ability to sort and organize (cluster) results in a number of ways, including chronology, location, results type, etc.
Susan Feldman, research vice president for content technologies at IDC, commented: "The most important point is that it can be integrated with the search platform so that you have a single, familiar tool to search both the intranet and your desktop. From an IT perspective, this solves the problem of a myriad of downloaded solutions, some secure, and most not, trying to access servers. From the user's perspective, the software can be customized and personalized. That means that you can create some context that will remove the ambiguity of a query. Furthermore, the API allows developers or partners to create connectors to common information sources, so that you can collect all information in a single access tool."
Kevin Madden, CEO of Clooster, Inc., said his start-up company has been part of the FAST PSP beta program from the beginning. Clooster has integrated FAST PSP into a data visualization application tool for the desktop that the company is currently building. Madden likes the performance and features of the product. He said he has been most impressed at FAST's enterprise penetration, which he hopes will open the door for Clooster to bring its advanced visualization technology to this market.
Archivas is another company that has been a beta tester for the FAST PSP SDK. According to Jeff Spotts, the company's vice president of marketing: "Search is a critical component of our Archivas Cluster (ArC) software and one of the areas where we have established a competitive advantage over other digital archiving solutions. With its new personal search platform, PSP, FAST has delivered a seamless mechanism for us to provide our customers a solution that extends down to every individual's desktop—well beyond anything else that is available in the market today."
While a number of vendors are currently offering desktop search tools for free—including Google, Microsoft, and X1 Technologies—FAST hopes that its enterprise customers will be attracted to the features, performance, and security offered by its new FAST PSP.