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Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) made its latest assault on the enterprise market today, in what could be a compelling first step toward extending search tools beyond their present applications.

The new FAST Adaptive Information Warehouse (AIW) is a multi-package software product that builds on Corporate Radar, a business intelligence firm FAST bought in April 2006 for about $8 million. AIW includes FAST Radar as "a web-based business intelligence portal and tool that brings actionable [sic] information and statistical analysis to decision-makers organization-wide." A front-end FAST Data Cleansing solution prepares the data for FAST Radar by applying "linguistics" to make it searchable by ad hoc queries.

Now, in addition to competing with the likes of Google and Autonomy Corp. plc for enterprise OEMs in the compliance and search tools market, FAST will pit itself against providers of business intelligence software, like Business Objects, Cognos, and SAS. It may also run into relational database management vendors such as Oracle.

FAST isn't admitting to open competition with these vendors, some of which are partners -- it's aiming more for "coopetition." Still, that marketing-correct nod doesn't stop FAST from claiming faster query performance than the relational database management systems most business intelligence (BI) tools are based on. It also works with unstructured as well as structured data, which lots of BI tools do not. And unlike other BI-based query tools, FAST says it will work for ordinary users in an organization instead of specially designated administrators.

"FAST can do cleansing and incorporating of unstructured data and make better use of BI systems," says Davor Sutija, VP of strategic development at FAST.

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