EMC World 2010 – More Information on Documentum Search Services

I attended Aamir Farooq’s session devoted to Documentum Search Services (DSS) and found out a few more details. Aamir did a great job giving a good level of detail and connecting the technical points to the benefits that DSS users will see, and he did so in a laid back, easy to consume manner.

In no particular order, here are the things that stood out for me:

One Box Search Improved

The default search behavior will switch from “OR” syntax to “AND” syntax when you search for more than one word. Imagine that you search for “bear” and get 10,000 results, so you decide to be more specific by searching for “black bear”. In the FAST search engine, you might get back 100,000 results (all the documents containing either “black” or “bear”). In DSS, you would get back fewer results, since DSS returns only the documents that contain both “black” and “bear”. This is how Google and other internet search engines work, so it’s more intuitive for your users.

Optimized for Documentum Use Cases

Because EMC now has control over the internals of their search engine, they are able to optimize it for some of the key Documentum use cases. First, they optimized the ability to exclude results that the user doesn’t have permission to see. Queries that used to take minutes in FAST now take seconds in DSS. Second, they optimized the “folder descend” queries that search inside deep folder structures. In FAST, a query that took 44 seconds now takes less than 1 second in DSS.

Native Support for Facets

Faceted search refinement is something I’ve been excited about for about 5 years. For the uninitiated, this technology allows users to quickly refine large search result sets by drilling down on pre-defined filters (or facets). This approach is used by Amazon, Home Depot, and lots of other online retailers.

For example, if you search for “drug interaction” and get back 10,000 results, you can quickly refine that list to, say, only Word documents by drilling down on the file format facet. This might limit the results to 1,000 documents. Then you might refine on the document type facet, showing only the reports. That might limit the results to 100 documents. Refine by date modified to selecting only the documents created in the past week, and it will be easy to find the document you are looking for in the small number of documents remaining.

DSS supports facets out of the box, so Webtop, CenterStage, and other Documentum products can have much improved search interfaces.

No Additional Cost

Because DSS is part of the Content Server, it is available at no additional cost to existing Documentum customers with a current maintenance contract.

You Must Plan on Upgrading Next Year (2011)

Because Microsoft is no longer supporting FAST as an OEM product, EMC has some pretty aggressive timelines for replacing FAST with DSS. Support for FAST expires at the end of 2011, so if you want to be on a supported product, you’ll have to install DSS before then.

This might mean that you have to upgrade Documentum, since DSS will only work on D6.5 SP2 and later. So be sure to plan your budgets next year for the hardware and personnel necessary to perform the upgrade.

The good news is that the upgrade should be a lot less painful than the last time they replaced Documentum’s full-text engine. DSS can be installed alongside FAST (on different servers, but as part of the same Documentum environment). While it is indexing all of your content, you can keep using FAST. When you are ready, you can cut over from FAST to DSS pretty painlessly.

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