FAST is the latest enterprise search company to dip its toe in the water of business intelligence, following Autonomy’s recent announcements. In the case of FAST, which is arguably the leader in enterprise search (and must surely be the leading Norwegian software company), they have done so through acquisition. They bought Corporate Radar, a small BI vendor who had some quite clever reporting technology (based around the Microsoft platform) that was quite flexible, and browser-based. On one project that I encountered at Kalido in the US, it was particularly good at building specialist financial reports e.g. gross margin “waterfall” analysis.
What is less clear to me is how “FAST Radar” as it is now known, really integrates with the FAST search engine. Superficially it is appealing to have “search” applied to BI, after all, if Google can scan the whole internet in seconds, why can I never find my monthly sales figures? However the problem in dealing with structured data is the ambiguity of metadata within corporate organisations (”which sales figures do you mean, exactly”), a problem that search technologies, clever though they are, barely scratch the surface of. Putting a very efficient index on a keyword is great for text searching, but it is less obvious to me how useful this would be in resolving ambiguous or inconsistent metadata. Hence I wonder whether the “integration” of these technologies goes much more than skin deep.
If anyone out there has practical experience of a project that uses one of these search engines combined with a BI tool or data warehouse, then please make a comment on this blog, as I am sure that your experiences will be of considerable interest to others.