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Microsoft drops open-source birthday gift with FAST

Lucidly imaginative?

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Closed Google

While Google might have brand recognition its appliance falls down because it's closed - you can't tamper with it. Also, Google charges increase as you add more documents, which hurts organizations that want to grow. Among Lucid's customers who've dumped GSA for Solr are investor's web site The Motley Fool.

As for Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search, you're again locked into a single vendor offering a closed product. And then there's the money: Oracle's list price is $34,500 per processor. Gries, meanwhile, called Sphinx more "generic" search that's designed to work on multiple databases.

If there's a niggling concern in all of this, it's the fact Microsoft felt confident enough to cut ESP's Unix and Linux users in the first place. Microsoft dropped a cool $1.2bn on FAST in 2008, making it one of just four acquisitions in Microsoft's 30-odd-year history to break the billion-dollar mark. Only Visio on $1.3bn in 2000, Navision on $1.3bn in 2002, and aQuantive for $6.3bn in 2007 beat FAST.

That's a lot of money to feel you could gamble on converting Linux and Unix users to Windows or simply throw away by dumping a large proportion of the customer base, if Gries' 80-per-cent number is correct. Even the politics of putting Windows first would make little business sense.

In 2007, the year before Microsoft's acquisition, FAST was hit with revenue recognition problems that challenged its previous claims of 60 per cent year-on-year growth. Prior to acquisition, FAST reported net losses on revenue that was falling - this before the sub-prime bubble that everyone agrees helped kill IT spending in 2008 and 2009 was far from bursting.

Empty promise

The figures suggest that maybe the Unix and Linux business wasn't paying so well for FAST, that Microsoft is justified in doubling down on Windows, and that Microsoft bought FAST purely for its search technology capabilities instead of its customer base.

This means potential trouble for Lucid, which is faced with the classic problem of persuading users of open-source code to pay it for those value-added consulting and support services. But Gries is confident users leaving Microsoft and eschewing Google and Oracle will want the proven capabilities of Lucene and Solr and find their way to Lucid.

Gries claimed one reason Lucid has done well and is able to beat Google among coders building search - and why it will attract former FAST users - is because Lucene and Solr are 10-year-old, proven technologies. "The largest install based in enterprise search is Lucerne," Gries said

Lucid imagination, meanwhile, brings the confidence of a support partner - especially if search is important to the customers' commodity and without it, they risk losing money.

"We don't have to persuade people - we have a number of leads coming into us," Gries said. "The basis is the fact this software is not easy. A lot of things can go wrong, like the query passer.

"You have many, many ways to cause trouble, but when you're in a contract with a commercial company there's somebody to talk to. When it's a project there's nobody to talk to," Gries said. ®

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