Microsoft acquired Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST) in early 2008, and maintains FAST as its enterprise search subsidiary. Digital Reef's software with FAST search capabilities is expected to be available in the second half of the year, and will add compliance and e-discovery capabilities to FAST and SharePoint.
Digital Reef's self-named data classification software is designed to help organizations identify duplicate and near-duplicate pieces of content, and automatically classify documents. It enables enterprises to classify and move unstructured and semi-structured data for e-discovery, data storage and organization initiatives. The agentless platform finds files and email, indexes them, makes them searchable and puts them into an analysis framework to discover similar attributes for tagging, review and placement.
"Our technology can use search results from a FAST index to pull relevant documents into our analytic environment and make it easier for attorneys and internal IT staff to find them, review them and move them around," said Steve Akers, president and CEO at Digital Reef. "It's going to open up a whole new area of storage management, compliance auditing and litigation discovery for both Digital Reef and Microsoft."
Storage software vendors have been adding Microsoft Office SharePoint support as the file collaboration application rapidly gains in popularity and increasingly becomes a data storage priority.
"Companies are looking for ways to work more effectively with SharePoint," said Nate Treloar, Microsoft's principal search technology evangelist. "The Digital Reef partnership will enable an entire service around identifying and classifying documents from file servers and move them toward specific projects inside SharePoint. So it's also a content management enabler."
Microsoft Office SharePoint is also playing a large role in e-discovery. Brian Babineau, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said ESG's research shows close to half of large organizations use SharePoint, and approximately 35% use it to manage compliance records and evidence. "So that's a pretty good-sized opportunity. It gives Digital Reef credibility because now they can sell into SharePoint environments," he said.
Babineau said Digital Reef's future depends on how well it can focus its e-discovery capabilities. He points out the first generation of enterprise search and classification companies that are still around survived by moving into the e-discovery market.
"The sporadic business model doesn't work," Babineau said. "Digital Reef's challenge will be finding its focus area. It's going to have to pick one or two of these segments to really focus on and add value to succeed."
Other vendors in this market include Autonomy Corp., Clearwell Systems Inc., Kazeon Systems Inc. and Recommind Inc.