FAST-Stellent – what might have been

The combination of search, text analysis and content management is turning into one of the central memes of this blog. This wasn’t deliberate, although it’s something we’ve deliberated internally for a couple of years.

There were plenty of partnerships between search and content management vendors around, but they seemed to us to be either at the press release level, i.e. little more than marketing, or to be as a result of a small handful of one-off projects in the field.

But it turns out others within the industry were thinking about much deeper integrations even if they weren’t saying so publicly.

About a year after Stellent and FAST (both then independent, of course) announced a partnership that resulted in Stellent OEMing FAST’s engine, FAST seriously considered buying Stellent.

I’ve heard from a couple of reliable sources that this was discussed at the highest level within FAST, but it chose not to pursue the deal and instead decided to veer way off its core business and ending up distracting itself to such an extent it got itself tied up in knots. This ended with it being forced to incur about $55m in charges in 2007 that resulted in its share rice plummeting and thus ending up costing Microsoft a lot less than it would have done.

Incidentally, one of those sidebars – Ezmo – a music community site (presented to analysts in February 2007 as a “customer” of FAST, when in fact the phrase that should’ve been used was”‘wholly-owned subsidiary”) was shut down in March.

Of course Stellent went on to be acquired by Oracle in 2007 and we’ve been impressed by the way the database giant has integrated the company so far.

But FAST and Stellent could have made for an interesting combination of the ability to manage and analyze unstructured content, and who knows, FAST-Stellent might’ve been a force to be reckoned with? Now we look to see what Microsoft – something of a toe-dipper when it comes to content management and Oracle, armed with a pretty decent search engine do to prolong this meme.

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