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Private Cloud 2.0 – Enterprise Cloud Search

Enterprise search software like FAST is as much a platform as it is a tool

In the Enterprise 2.0 white paper I wrote a few years ago, I built on the core concepts of what Andrew McAfee had introduced, primarily the integrated role of Cloud Computing and also the overlap with BPM (Business Process Management).

I have started bringing this up to date for 2012 through the concept of ‘Private Cloud 2.0‘, simply meaning that the interest and momentum for deploying internal Cloud platforms can go hand in hand with expanding the successful use of social media within the enterprise too.

I emphasize successful because many corporations have tried to adopt social media only to find it falls somewhat flat on its face.

As described in this article McKinsey has reported that despite social media having been around for over a decade now it`s still a bit of a mystery in terms of how to apply it within a business context in a practical ROI-generating manner.

Sharepoint FAST

The main addition in this new focus is to highlight the role of Enterprise Search, achieved by products such as Microsoft Sharepoint FAST.

It was previous a standalone product that has since been integrated into Sharepoint since Microsoft acquired the company behind it. It has provided a major steroid injection to this toolset, able to address some of the fundamental weaknesses of Sharepoint as a content collaboration tool.

For example even Microsoft themselves experienced the ‘Sharepoint Sprawl’ effect, where a lack of standards for Sharepoint sites and taxonomy structures within them resulted in a widespread collection of random web sites and unorganized content postings. I’ve seen this a number of times in failed corporate E2.0 attempts.

So they turned to their own tool and applied it to master this chaos, creating an ‘Infopedia‘ portal for a Salesforce 2.0 effect.

Another very powerful FAST case study that highlights the role it can play in enabling an Enterprise 2.0 architecture is this one for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK.

It demonstrates that every one understands the value of Search, i.e. Google, but the same result within the enterprise of receiving millions of hits when you search for an item is not really useful.

Instead you need a framework that can apply various mechanisms so that the result set is much smaller and focused, and how this is achieved is how an E2.0 program can be built. In the case of NICE they fine-tuned the search process so that it would intelligently index the right content the right way so that Healthcare personnel would be better matched with what they are looking for.

FAST can be programmed in various ways to better rank information towards these goals, for example using structured citations and also importantly peer review as well, so that both human and computer intelligence is combined to achieve the optimum.

I.e. “Crowdsourced search indexing”, which can then be combined with equally powerful tools for users to find what they need.

Best Practice Alerts – ECS as an enterprise architecture

A simple example is that FAST can provide users with the same type of Google tools, like Alerts. They can be notified when particular topics are posted.

The key difference again is that rather than scanning the entire web, these filters are tuned in to only the enterprise estate.

This means it is searching all the documents, files and web pages within the whole corporation, and alerting users when new information is published.

With the NICE example above the value of this can be immediately seen, i.e. alerting healthcare staff to new developments in a particular treatment field like diabetes that would impact on their work, enabling “Best Practice Alerts”.

Critically this can also include structured information sources too, like databases and enterprise applications – CRM, ERP etc. It`s not limited to only raw web content and documents. This principle is nicely described by Bain here.

What this demonstrates is that Enterprise Cloud Search can be approached both as a service delivery model (hosted search software, as-a-service) and also as a general enterprise architecture.



As shown on our best practices page, enterprise search software like FAST is as much a platform as it is a tool.

With the ability to crawl all enterprise information sources, and make these feeds accessible to both user-centric tools like Alerts, and also to developers via API interfaces, it offers a framework for a content-centric approach to enterprise integration.

Traditionally the enterprise market has always approached the integration challenge via a transactional EAI mode, where systems are linked together via a hand-wired database exchange method, one that works well for transactions but not for scenarios like enabling users to interact with the information.

Coming up next

Our follow on content in this series will focus on these technical capabilities and architecture, expanding on the API programming and how it relates to the Microsoft Private Cloud stack.

Tune in to the webinar to learn more.

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