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Electronic Data Discovery and Archiving Alert: Microsoft Bids for Fast Search and Transfer

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) made a bid for Fast Search and Transfer (OSE:FAST) this morning, the announcement can be found on FASTs Stock Exchange Announcements website.
Where all of this gets a bit confusing is during 2003, when Overture acquired FAST’s web search division and Altavista, then Overture licensed Altavista enterprise search technology distribution rights to FAST.  Later in the year 2003, Overture was purchased by Yahoo; Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO).  The net-net: Yahoo owns Altavista Intellectual Property after purchasing Overture.  Are you still with me?  Good.
This does not mean that Microsoft owns Altavista Intellectual Property, but Microsoft will have the right to distribute Altavista on behalf of. Yes. Yahoo.  If you have data management tools that use FAST technology, you should sit down and review the contract and maintenance options.  You should ask FAST to determine how the distribution of any technology from Yahoo, by FAST, would be affected.  If it will, you want to put the onus on your vendor or on FAST/Microsoft.  That should cover the most unusual contract issues you will face.  (Editors note: Symantec (KVS) Enterprise Vault used Altavista search, which is why I know about the 2003 acquisition nuance).
At this point, as a technologist, your head is probably spinning.  I know my head was spinning when I saw the acquisition announcement.  I started to think about all the information and data management products that are using FAST.  In particular, electronic data discovery and archiving market
followers should think about the impact this acquisition will have on their
electronic discovery processes and products.
The leading archiving system in
today’s market is Symantec Enterprise Vault.  Enterprise Vault uses
FAST technology within the archive system to index and retrieve data.  Indexes are the only real way to manage data within an archive.  Indexes are the road map to data.  For Symantec, this acquisition represents a manageable threat to the data residing within Enterprise Vault.
The threat exists because Enterprise Vault data is primarily electronic mail from Microsoft Exchange, a flag ship product from Microsoft.  Through FAST, Microsoft will own the roadmap to all data within Enterprise Vault, similar to Autonomy’s roadmap of newly acquired Zantaz.  Microsoft can now retain access and manageability of data created and used by it’s products.  However, Symantec stands to gain from Microsoft incorporating FAST search into the user interfaces of Outlook, Windows, etc. The end result is all data in Enterprise Vault will be seamlessly available to Windows users in native applications.  Regardless of the outcome for Symantec, end users and customers of Microsoft systems stand to gain significantly with Microsoft and the MSDN network behind FAST, there is no limit to application development.  This goes for any application that uses OEMs FAST indexing and search solutions.  Symantec could not be reached for comment.
A company that stands to gain tremendously is CommVault (NASDAQ:CVLT) Systems.  Dave West, VP of Marketing and Business Development at CommVault, says this of the proposed acquisition “it offers instant validation for what we at CommVault have built into the new foundation of our Simpana product suite.”  Dave is absolutely correct, for CommVault the FAST acquisition is a key victory.  If you are a user of CommVault, the value just skyrocketed.
Nine months ago CommVault integrated Archiving and Backup storage to reduce the total amount of data required for ongoing electronic data discovery, disaster recovery and business continuity.  They refer to this as their “common technology engine”, not exactly self explanatory, but exactly powerful.  Specifically, with Microsoft Exchange, they can journal, archive and backup email storing data once for all three business processes, then index it using FAST.  If you are considering archiving, or are considering new archiving capabilities and want unified storage, system and retrieval management, the firm choice would be CommVault Simpana using FAST Search and Transfer.  CommVault was quick to respond to the good news when I asked them the following question:

Joshua Konkle: How does CommVault value the prospect that Microsoft will integrate its operating system search, SharePoint, Exchange, etc to existing data management product indexes, like CommVault, etc?

Dave West:  The seamless integration between CommVault Simpana software, FAST and Microsoft, gives users a common search technology across different index sets of data, which reduces many of the potential variables and risks in designing a cross-vendor integration. If in fact, the FAST engine becomes the single embedded indexing service in Microsoft applications such as Exchange and Sharepoint, it offers more freedom to leverage CommVault’s core data and information management platforms more deeply into those applications and we expect even more API’s to become available to us to continue enhancing our Windows Centric solution.
Additionally, with companies planning 2008 upgrades to Exchange Server 2007 and SharePoint 2007, CommVault can offer assistance by providing a release-independent, common MSFT / FAST indexing engine which increases CommVault users’ confidence in a seamless integration.

I liked Dave’s response so much, I just posted the whole thing.  It is thoughtful and he is careful not pre-suppose the extent of integration.  Dave’s a classy guy and DCIG expects to see more comments like this about the acquisition, thanks Dave.
These are just two examples of products that use FAST Search and Transfer technologies.  There are a host of other products that will benefit greatly from the simple federation of the FAST search interface in Microsoft product lines.  My hope is the Microsoft and FAST set a new tone for the Knowledge Worker, once this acquisition goes through and the integration begins.


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