Live from TechEd in New Orleans: What’s New in Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2010

Welcome to TechEd 2010 banner at the convention center in New Orleans

My flight from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans for TechEd this morning arrived just in time for me to drop my bags at my hotel before (literally) crossing the street to the Convention Center for a quick lunch in advance of the afternoon sessions.  For my first session of the conference, I chose the What's New in Enterprise Search in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 breakout session which was co-presented by Jeff Fried, Senior Technical Product Manager, and Rohit Puri, Program Manager, both Microsoft employees. 

Regular readers may recall my coverage of the Office 2010 Airlift event which took place last summer in Seattle, and which included an in-progress look at Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2010, also hosted by Jeff Fried.  It's been a year this week since I attended that event, and the product has just been released so, as you might imagine, much been honed in the interim.  What's changed?  Read on and discover, as this afternoon's presentation was divided into looking at the 2010 search experience from the perspective of end users, IT pros, and developers.

Jeff Fried & Rohit Puri present at TechEd 2010Jeff introduced himself as a self-professed "longstanding search nerd" who came to Microsoft via the company's acquisition of FAST technology and explained that, as of the release of 2010, "we now have tiered search…products for every customer need."  Rohit introduced himself by explaining that his job is "to represent the customer."

Beginning with the end user experience, Jeff leapt straight into his first demo, showing  as well as telling that "a lot of work was put into the relevance" of the search results and the "snippets" of information pertaining to what is shown in the search results (inclusive of metadata) in the SharePoint Search Center.  Jeff then went on to demonstrate query suggestions (auto-completed suggestions based on what you begin to type in the search box), and point out the "Related Searches" feature, both of which are offered as "ways to help people ask a better question" (and, by extension, to help people receive a better, more relevant answer to that question).

After also demonstrating that desktop search is integrated into the 2010 SharePoint search experience, Jeff explained that, "the whole UI [of the SharePoint Search Center) is made up of Web Parts" … and that the UI, as well as the Web Parts themselves, is configurable.  Jeff then briefly demonstrated the Admin tools area, specifically the ease-of-use in adding a new keyword, explaining that, "as an administrator, it's easy to add in these terms and to make the search good."  As well, Jeff mentioned the enhanced multi-lingual support for documents, and new form factors (i.e., mobile search from smartphones, in addition to the aforementioned desktop search functionality).  Jeff also mentioned that the Search Center Master Page has changed in 2010, such that it's now, "a minimal master page, to encourage people to have one place to go, all the time."

Moving on to the topic of social search, Jeff touched on the notion that social behavior in SharePoint 2010 makes search better.  Jeff demonstrated the people search functionality, showing that the associated information is surfaced from a users' My Site, inclusive of their social behavior (tagging, comments, etc.).  Also demonstrated was the very cool phonetic search feature which, out-of-the-box and requiring no configuration, provides functionality to serve up the correct results even if you've misspelled a person's name — and it's not just phonetic, but it includes searches on common nicknames as well.  Jeff explained that Shared Service Applications (SSAs) are, "a big part of 2010," and that social search uses three such apps: the User Profile Service Application, the Search Service Application, and (new in 2010) the Managed Metadata Service Application.

Rohit took over the presentation to address the IT pro experience, beginning with an overview of the scale out architecture.  Rohit explained that in 2010, you can have: multiple indexers; stateless crawlers; crawl distribution; query mirroring; query partitioning; multiple property databases; and an admin database, along with an admin component.  Addressing the size of items that can be handled by small, medium, and large farms, Rohit said that a small farm can handle up to 10 million items, a medium farm up to 40 million items, and a large dedicated search farm up to 100 million items.

Discussing deployment, Rohit stressed the simplicity of deployment given that it's, "all wizard-based [in 2010]."  At this point, Jeff stepped in to quickly demo the Integrated Search Dashboard for admins, including shortcuts for common tasks, crawl history, topology, and reports.  Following the short demo, Rohit spoke about manageability in 2010 search, showing examples of health reports and some of the new views available to display crawl logs.  Jeff interjected that lots of crawl-related information is now available visually, in the form of various charts, to assist in investigating crawl-related issues.  Regarding health reports, Rohit pointed out that the query latency trends which are available in 2010 will reveal exactly which component is contributing to a given latency issue.

With time, ahem, FAST running out, Jeff took over again to briefly speak to the developer experience, explaining that there is a spectrum of search configuration options (SharePoint Designer, Web Parts, etc.) available to configure and extend the out-of-the-box search experience in SharePoint 2010.  Jeff pointed out that FAST Search Web Parts, "are extensions of Web Parts in SharePoint," and that they are themselves extensible.  Addressing the notion of secure, unified access to information (a hallmark of Microsoft's messaging surrounding the 2010 releases), Jeff said that "We've doubled down on connectors," and concluded the formal presentation by explaining that there are two types of connectors (federation and indexing), pointing out that "There is a new connector framework … if you're looking to add new connectivity, you'll do it with this framework."

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