Microsoft plans to begin phasing out Unix and Linux platform support for its FAST enterprise search products, as of its next release.
According to a Thursday blog post from Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Bjørn Olstad, the team will be "investing in interoperability between Windows and other operating systems, reaffirming our commitment to 10 years of support for our non-Windows products, and taking concrete steps to help customers plan for the future."
Enterprise search remains a lucrative, if oddly fractured market. According to analyst firm Gartner, in 2008, software revenue (new licenses and maintenance revenue) in the enterprise search market totaled $1.1 billion worldwide. The firm also forecast that revenue would rise to $1.9 billion by 2013, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.7 percent.
Currently, the market is dominated by Microsoft and Autonomy, though recently, the Apache Lucene project (commercialized by Lucid Imagination) has made inroads into the enterprise, as has Google's search appliance.
But Microsoft has one huge advantage, in that it effectively controls the data through the Windows file system, along with a vast array of applications and server platforms.
Windows has an obviously huge corporate server software footprint, and SharePoint continues to provide additional inroads into business data. But enterprise systems are expanding into a multitude of different services--on-site and off-site, that are far from homogeneous.
While it makes sense, from a development perspective, for Microsoft to drop Linux and Unix support for FAST, it doesn't make much sense from a market perspective. Offering FAST only on Windows means that businesses that want to use it will potentially incur costs for Windows licenses, system administration, and systems redesign.
Linux servers, especially for file systems and non-Exchange e-mail, continue to grow. Throw in the notion of cloudlike systems that are effectively operating system-agnostic, and this move seems even less logical.
In the same blog post, Olstad references cloud-based services that customers can choose instead of on-premise deployments. Cloud services may work for some enterprises, but most will want to keep their data behind the firewall.