As a consultant, I encounter all kinds of questionable decisions which were made long before my invitation to the party. Of course this is totally normal because if everything was working perfectly, I would not have been asked to help out. But, sometimes I do come across things that actually seem to defy both logic and common sense – this is one of those cases.
The entire Microsoft search engine blood line ranges from the FREE “Search Server 2008 Express” (which by the way is a very impressive product) to its “FAST Enterprise Search” (which does things neither Google nor Microsoft could do, explaining why Microsoft so eagerly acquired them). The SharePoint Search Engine is just one step below the FAST enterprise search. The SharePoint search engine returns highly relevant results from terabytes of data spread across your enterprise (including non-SharePoint, non-Microsoft business systems) for thousands of companies – and it does this with extreme precision and swiftness. MS FAST does the same thing, but from petabytes of data spread across your enterprise (absolutely incredible).
During a recent planning discussion I was confronted with one of those decisions made long ago (by someone no longer around, as usual) which threaded to really detract from the solution functionality. They wanted to replace SharePoint Search with the already purchased Google Appliance. When I asked why, I was given a long list of capabilities which could not have described the SharePoint Search Engine better, but they were actually intended to be Google Appliance capabilities not included in SharePoint Search. It was an awkward few moments for everyone in the room as I line-item demonstrated these capabilities, and more, using the SharePoint Search Engine – but we got through it.
Using the built in SharePoint Search Engine doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan, you do. But it does mean you already own an extremely powerful and flexible Search Engine and it’s already built in to SharePoint. It also means the time spent on integrating the Google Appliance search engine with SharePoint can now be spent on improving your end user search experience to meet the needs of your specific audience (user interface, taxonomy/refinements, search scopes, best bets, etc…).
My advice would be to make sure you have thoroughly researched the SharePoint Search Engine before looking elsewhere.