FirstGov’s FAST engine gets faster

To speed responses to FirstGov site visitors, the General Services Administration will update the portal’s search engine software from Fast Search & Transfer, a Norwegian vendor with U.S. headquarters in Boston.

FirstGov about two years ago changed to FAST from its original Inktomi Corp. search technology and now is upgrading to the FAST Enterprise Search Platform, FAST officials said.

FAST ESP, announced today, indexes structured or unstructured content in 77 languages, 225 formats and 30 character sets, converting them to Extensible Markup Language for swifter retrieval, FAST technical director Nate Treloar said.

The engine has an open-application programming interface for database connection. FAST ESP runs under Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2000, Red Hat Linux Enterprise 2.1, Sun Microsystems Solaris 8, IBM AIX 5.1 and 5.2, and HP-UX 11.

The software on a single commodity server can search a million pages in less than a second, Treloar said.

"It's a modular, distributed architecture," he said. "As data grows, you can add another server node."

Treloar estimated the maximum per server would be about 100G. Some federal agencies have looked at the original version of FAST for searching their own content and forming a conceptual index across multiple repositories, he said.

FAST ESP starts around $120,000 without server hardware. The cost depends on the query load and on user requirements for data freshness—how often the index must be synchronized with data sources.

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