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Buying FAST, Microsoft also gets AIW, Radar, and AdMomentum

The best analysis of the motivations and implications of Microsoft's bid for Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) is Stephen Arnold's, yet his in-depth look, along with the rest of the reporting I've read, has nothing to say about some of the most interesting technology that Microsoft will acquire: a fresh approach to data warehousing, a search-integrated BI dashboard, and an ad-delivery platform, that last being where the real search money is to be made.

Seth Grimes

January 14, 2008

3 Min Read

The best analysis of the motivations and implications of Microsoft's bid for Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) is Stephen Arnold's, yet his in-depth look, along with the rest of the reporting I've read, has nothing to say about some of the most interesting technology that Microsoft will acquire. Sure, given about FAST that "Our Business is Enterprise Search," and given that enterprise-search mojo and customers are what Microsoft seeks to acquire. There's much more to FAST, however: a fresh approach to data warehousing, a search-integrated BI dashboard, and an ad-delivery platform, that last being where the real search money is to be made.I analyzed FAST's financial "train wreck" back in August and in September had a follow-up clarification call with FAST VPs Davor Sutija and Todd Wilson (who left the company last month). They reaffirmed FAST's commitment to their Alternative Information Warehouse and Radar dashboard interface. They spoke of a next generation of search melding structured and unstructured data to be demonstrated at the FAST Forward conference scheduled for February, next month.

Sutija said "databases fall over when you build ad-hoc query systems on high-dimensionality cubes" (like those you get when you extract information from "unstructured" sources). Sutija said in September that FAST had deployed this technology to a first set of customers and hoped to make public announcements in late January, that is, starting now. While Microsoft obviously has search technologies, to the best of my knowledge, they have had nothing in the works remotely comparable to these FAST advanced-DW initiatives. Microsoft Research's Text Mining, Search, and Navigation group (TMSN) under Eric Brill — whose disdain for providing a public face on his work is shown by lack of post-2006 publications linked from the group's site — appears not to have any interest in search-BI/DW, nor in the type of contextual ad-delivery technologies represented by FAST's AdMomentum.

I reported on AdMomentum last April to make a point about occasions when hosted (SaaS) services just won't do, that is, when a publisher wants to avoid surrendering serious potential ad revenues to intermediaries such as Google. We are talking very substantial sums, billions, with 50%-plus annual growth. This market that dwarfs enterprise search. If FAST's ad-delivery technology has kept pace, it alone could have motivated Microsoft's FAST purchase.

I wonder that reporters and analysts, in covering Microsoft's bid for FAST, seem to have missed that FAST has a lot to offer beyond search. I assume that Microsoft saw AdMomentum's potential value and I hope that they also value and will build out the extras, AIW and Radar dashboards for search-extended BI, that they will be acquiring.

Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He consults on data management and analysis systems.The best analysis of the motivations and implications of Microsoft's bid for Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) is Stephen Arnold's, yet his in-depth look, along with the rest of the reporting I've read, has nothing to say about some of the most interesting technology that Microsoft will acquire: a fresh approach to data warehousing, a search-integrated BI dashboard, and an ad-delivery platform, that last being where the real search money is to be made.

About the Author(s)

Seth Grimes

Contributor

Seth Grimes is an analytics strategy consultant with Alta Plana and organizes the Sentiment Analysis Symposium. Follow him on Twitter at @sethgrimes

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