by Ken Poore.

Microsoft today put itself squarely into the enterprise search market by introducing Microsoft Search Server Express 2008. You can download the release candidate from its website and give it a try if you have a Windows 2003 Server with some free space on it. It’s free today, and it will be free when it goes to general release in the first quarter of 2008. Don’t be fooled by its cost; this is a capable product that will get the attention of anyone considering or in the midst of a search deployment. Search Server will disrupt the strategies of clients and vendors within the already confusing search landscape. It is better than ‘good enough’ on many fronts, including its connectivity into Documentum and FileNet content repositories — also free — and its unified administration interface. For more insights, take a look at Forrester’s view on the release.

Microsoft has its partner network at the ready, with more connectivity into other business systems like Cognos, Business Objects, SAS and others, and its partners offer opportunities to create vertical solutions around Search Server. Though the solutions will be light-weight compared to full-bore salvos from Autonomy, FAST, and Endeca, they will cost a fraction and be up and running in far less time.

Search Server Express should comfortably index and search 400,000-500,000 documents on a reasonably sized server, and capacity and performance can be scaled in a multi-server deployment using the licensed version of Search Server 2008. Many businesses and smaller sub-units with a larger enterprise will find Search Server Express quite adequate to drop-in to address a wide variety of uses, including an immediate knee-jerk ‘We need search and we need it now!’ mandate, as well as the needs of a project-centric search tool, or as a search box on an Intranet site.

Microsoft is flooding the market with a tool that will fit well within many businesses, and it will cast a threatening shadow over vendors that make specialized SharePoint search solutions. Google should take note, too; the market that they claimed with their search appliances just got very crowded.