Microsoft to drop Linux, Unix versions of enterprise search

The move is a reversal of an earlier pledge from Redmond

Microsoft will no longer offer Linux or Unix versions of its enterprise search products after a wave of releases set to ship in the first half of this year, the company announced in an official blog post Thursday.

After Microsoft bought Fast Search & Transfer in 2008, it said it would continue offering and updating standalone versions of the company's ESP platform for Linux and Unix, wrote Bjorn Olstad, CTO for Fast and a Microsoft distinguished engineer. "Over the last two years, we’ve done just that."

But the products being released this year will be the last containing a search core compatible with Linux and Unix, he said.

There is logic behind Microsoft's decision, according to Olstad.

"Although I understand that focusing on Windows will be a hard change for some of our customers, I’m convinced that it’s the right thing to do because it will accelerate our rate of innovation," he wrote.

Microsoft is trying to make the move easier on affected customers, Olstad added.

"We will always interoperate with non-Windows systems on both the front- and back-end. Our search solutions will crawl and index content stored on Windows, Linux, and Unix systems, and our UI controls will work with UI frameworks running on any operating system," he stated.

In addition, it will support ESP 5.3, the search core for the products that will be released this year, for 10 years. Customers who decide to keep running the core on Unix or Linux can "add Windows-only innovations or cloud-based services by using a mixed-platform architecture," he said.

Microsoft is also rolling out an "upgrade program" that will "help customers evaluate our hosted solutions and/or a Windows-based deployment."

However, "there’s no immediate action required as a result of this announcement—and I expect that most of you will stay with your current deployments for some time," Olstad added.

A significant number of customers are running Fast on Linux or Unix, according to Jared Spataro, director of enterprise search at Microsoft. He declined to provide specific figures.

Microsoft made the announcement now in order to give those users plenty of time to prepare, he said. Still, Microsoft's move came as a surprise to Gartner analyst Whit Andrews.

"I honestly thought ... that in order to continue to win and execute the most visionary installations, they would need to continue to support Linux," Andrews said.

Microsoft's promises of continued interoperability offer some comfort, he said. "This doesn't mean Microsoft is casting out Linux users from their customer base. There will be people running Fast on Linux right out to the 10-year limit."Meanwhile, Microsoft's announcement raises another question: whether it will continue offering a standalone search product for the long term, given its moves to align the Fast technology with its SharePoint collaboration platform.

There are no plans at this time to drop a standalone version, although Microsoft doesn't tend to "project out any further than one product wave," Spataro said. "When we look at any strategy, we really are looking at market demand. [Right now] we certainly hear there's a need for a standalone version."

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