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There’s just no substitute for speed. SharePoint Server 2010 already offers enhanced and powerful search capabilities. But if you decide to deploy FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint on top of the native search functionality, you’ll get a much richer and much more powerful experience. The following are the key benefits of FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint:

  • a deep refinement panel that shows the amount of results in each refinement category
  • ability to sort on any property
  • document thumbnails and previews
  • the Visual Best Bets search feature
  • document and site promotion and demotion capability
  • user context from user profiles that let you differentiate users and the way in which the results display to them
  • a “similar search” feature
  • extreme scale-out of up to more than 500 million documents
  • easy administration and configuration, fully integrated into SharePoint 2010
  • content processing pipeline
  • entity extraction

For more information about the benefits of FAST Search, see my guest post, “FAST Search in SharePoint” and “Introducing FAST Search for SharePoint: A New Choice in Search”.

Although the deployment process for FAST Search for SharePoint may seem to be easy and self-evident, you can learn a few tricks to make your job much easier. The following are the logical steps to deploy FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint:

  1. install FAST Search for SharePoint
  2. configure FAST Search for SharePoint
  3. deploy Search service applications (create FAST Query SSA and FAST Content SSA)
  4. deploy a FAST Search Center

 

Step 1: Installing FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint

FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint (aka FAST for SharePoint 2010—F4SP) can be installed on top of a SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise farm. As a fully integrated component, FAST Search for SharePoint can also contain one or more servers from a FAST farm. The obligatory FAST admin server is responsible for running administrative services. Non-admin servers can also be added to the deployment to handle non-admin services, such as query matching, indexing, document processing, and so on. In a single-server environment, these two roles are handled by the same server; however, a multi-server deployment can contain one admin server and one or more non-admin servers. The following steps to install FAST Search for SharePoint are pretty straightforward:

  • Create a domain user for FAST administration tasks. (For example, create DOMAIN\fastadmin). The requirements for these tasks are that this user must:
    • be a domain user
    • be a member of the FASTSearchAdministrators group on the FAST admin server
    • have sysadminprivileges on the SQL server
  • Install Office Web Apps. (To obtain the installation files, visit Microsoft Office Web Apps.) Office Web Apps is required for some FAST Search for SharePoint features, such as document thumbnails and previews.
  • Install FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint prerequisites. Similar to SharePoint 2010, these prerequisites can be installed by the FAST Search for SharePoint installation wizard, or you can install these components manually. In either case, you must deploy the following prerequisites before you install FAST Search for SharePoint:
    • Application Server role, Web Server (IIS) role
    • Distributed transaction support
    • Windows Communication Foundation Activation Components
    • XPS Viewer
    • The Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1
    • Hotfix for Microsoft Windows (KB 976394)
    • Windows PowerShell 2.0
  • Run the FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint installation wizard, and select the Install FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint option.


Step 2: Configuring FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint

After your installation is finished, you must configure your FAST Search for SharePoint environment. To do this, follow these steps.

Note: For a multi-server deployment, see the information that follows this procedure.

1.     Click Start, type Microsoft FAST in the Start Search box, then click the “Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint / FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint Configuration Wizard” link.

2.     Select one of the following deployment types:

a.    Single Server: a standalone installation, including both admin and non-admin components

b.    Admin Server: in a multi-server deployment, the admin component to which the non-admins will connect

c.     Non-admin Server: in a multi-server deployment, a non-admin component (you must deploy a FAST admin server before you deploy a non-admin component)

3.     Enter the FAST username and password that you created in step 1 of “Step 1: Installing FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.”

4.     Enter a certificate password.

5.     Specify the following server settings:

a.     FQDN of the FAST admin server (for example, f4sp.demo2010.local)

b.    base port that will be used to calculate how to reserve the required ports for FAST Search for SharePoint (the default value is 13000)

c.     database connection string: FQDN of the SQL server on which FAST Search databases will be created (for example, sql.demo2010.local)

d.    name of the FAST Admin Database (for example, FASTSearchAdminDatabase)

6.     Provide the click-through relevancy settings by selecting the SharePoint Server installation type: Standalone, Server Farm, or Do not enable click-through relevancy.

7.     Follow these post-configuration steps:

a.     Verify whether your FAST admin user is a member of the FASTSearchAdministrators group on the FAST admin server.b.    Open the Microsoft FAST Search Server for SharePoint PowerShell command, and run the following command:

nctrl status

c.     Make sure that all services are running.

8.     Restart the server.

 

In a multi-server deployment, you must create a deployment.xml file. This file describes the topology of the FAST Search architecture. The deployment.xml file should resemble the example file shown in Listing 1 at the end of this article.

For more information about this procedure, see the Microsoft article “Configure a stand-alone deployment or a multiple server deployment (FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint)”.
 

Step 3: Deploying Search Service Applications

After you complete the configuration of FAST Search, you have to take additional steps to prepare your SharePoint 2010 environment for this added feature.

The logic of the preparation process is the same as the logic for deploying the out-of-the-box SharePoint Search itself. First, create the appropriate search service applications. In the case of FAST Search for SharePoint, the following search service applications are required:

  • FAST Content Service, for crawling and feeding content for the FAST backend
  • FAST Query Service, for serving the queries and crawling the People content source

Note: The FAST Query Service routes the People search to the SharePoint 2010 Search engine, and routes all other queries to the FAST Search engine.

To deploy these service applications, you have to provide some URLs and port numbers, which are based on the base port that you configured previously. You can find the required information in the install_info.txt file in the FASTSearch folder. Another important file is contentdistributor.cfg in the FASTSearch\etc folder. This file contains the exact location of the content distributors, shown in Figure 1.
 

Figure 1: FAST Search installation details
Figure 1: FAST Search installation details

 

To create a FAST content service application, follow these steps:

1.     Navigate to the Central Administration site of your SharePoint 2010 farm.

2.     In the Application Management section, click Manage Service Applications.

3.     Click the Service Applications tab, click New, then click Search Service Application (see Figure 2).
 

Figure 2: Manage Service Applications screen
Figure 2: Manage Service Applications screen

 

4.     Type a descriptive name. For example, type FAST Content Service App.

5.     For the service application type, select FAST Search Connector.

6.     In the Application Pool list, select an application pool, or create a new application pool.

7.     Enter the location of the content distributors.

Note: The Install_info.txt file contains the URLs for the content distributors.

8.     Open the install_info.txt and the contentdistributor.cfg files to locate the URLs and port numbers that are required during the installation.

9.     Enter the name of the content collection.

Note: Enter the default name of “sp” if you didn’t configure the name of the content collection during the installation.

10.  To save your changes, click OK.

After you finish configuring your SharePoint 2010 farm, the farm is connected to the FAST Search content, and you’re able to crawl the content immediately (as shown in Figure 3).
 

Figure 3: Central Admin FAST Search Connector crawl screen
Figure 3: Central Admin FAST Search Connector crawl screen

The next step is to create the FAST Query Service application to enable running queries against the crawled and indexed content. To create this application, follow these steps:

1.     Navigate to the Central Administration site of your SharePoint 2010 farm.

2.     In the Application Management section, click Manage Service Applications.

3.     Click the Service Applications tab, click New, then click Search Service Application.

4.     Type a descriptive name. For example, type FAST Content Service App.

5.     For the service application type, select FAST Search Connector.

6.     In the Application Pool list, select the appropriate application pool for both the Search Admin Web Service and the Search Query and Site Settings Web Service, or create a new application pool.

7.     Enter the location of the following services:

o    Query Service

o    Administration Service

o    Resource Store

Note: You can find these URLs in the install_info.txt file.

8.     Enter the FAST admin account that you created previously. For example, enter DOMAIN\FASTadmin.

9.     To save your changes, click OK.

Now that you’ve integrated FAST with SharePoint 2010, you’re almost ready to start using your FAST Search environment. But first, you have to create and import the certificate that will apply to the communication between SharePoint 2010 and FAST Search. To do this, follow these steps:

1.     Run the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell as an administrator.

2.     Run the following PowerShell commands:

$stsCert = (Get-SPSecurityTokenServiceConfig).LocalLoginProvider.SigningCertificate
$stsCert.Export("cert") | Set-Content -encoding byte MOSS_STS.cer

Import the certificate created in step 2 into the Trusted People certificate store on your FAST Search server (as shown in Figure 4).

Figure 4: Trusted People-Certificates screen
Figure 4: Trusted People-Certificates screen

 

With the communications certificate in place, FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint is deployed successfully and is almost ready for use.


Step 4: Deploying FAST Search Center

Now that you’ve installed and deployed the FAST Search Server architecture on SharePoint 2010, the following preparation steps remain before you can use the full functionality of FAST Search for SharePoint:

•       crawl and index the content

•       create the required scopes

•       deploy a FAST Search Center

Usually, you can apply crawl settings at the FAST Content Site Service Account (SSA). The Crawl service application is responsible for crawling all content, including SharePoint, file shares, Exchange public folders, and custom content sources. To define the content sources that are required to be crawled, follow these steps:

1.     Navigate to the Central Administration site of your SharePoint 2010 farm.

2.     In the Application Management section, click Manage Service Applications, and open your FAST Content SSA.

3.     On the Quick Launch menu under Crawling, click Content Sources.

4.     In the Content Sources list, select the appropriate content sources, or create new sources.

Note: Be careful not to select People as a content source because the People search is performed by the SharePoint search engine, not by FAST. Therefore, the People selection should be made on the FAST Query SSA instead of on the FAST Content SSA.

5.     Right-click Content Source, and then click Start Full or Incremental Crawling.

Note: This is the same method to start these operations as in SharePoint 2010 Search.

After the contents are crawled, deploy the content search scopes. Because the search scopes are part of the Query process, they can be found in the FAST Query SSA. To deploy the search scopes, follow these steps:

1.     Navigate to the Central Administration site of your SharePoint 2010 farm.

2.     In the Application Management section, click Manage Service Applications, and open your FAST Query SSA.

3.     On the Quick Launch menu under Queries and Results, click Scopes to locate the scopes that are defined for your FAST Search.

Note: As in SharePoint 2010 Search, two scopes are defined here by default: All Items and People. However, you might have to configure additional scopes.

After your scopes are configured correctly and ready to use, it’s finally time to search! To search the content crawled by FAST in SharePoint 2010, you must create a FAST Search Center. To do this, follow these steps:

1.     Navigate to the collection site on which you want to create the FAST Search Center.

2.     On the Site Actions menu, click Create.

3.     In the list of site templates, click FAST Search Center.

4.     Complete the template, and save the new Search Center.

And that’s it. Figure 5 shows a completed Search Center. If your configuration has been successful, you can immediately enjoy the functionalities of FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint!

Figure 5: FAST Search Center FAST Search results page
Figure 5: FAST Search Center FAST Search results page

 

Troubleshooting FAST Search Deployment

If you experience any errors during the FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint deployment, the following useful tricks can help you debug and troubleshoot the installation:

·         Manually push some content to the FAST content collection. You can verify whether you’re able to do this by following these steps:

o    Create a simple document on your local computer. For example, create a document named FASTtest.txt. Type some sample content in the file. For example, type ”Hello World! This is my test document.”

o    Run the Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint shell.

o    Run the following command:

docpush -c <collection name> “<fullpath to your file>”
 

For example, run the following command:

docpush –c sp “C:\FAST_test.txt”

For full docpush reference information, see the Microsoft article "docpush reference."
After this command runs successfully, the document is pushed into the FAST content collection, and the document can then be queried. Of course, you can add more documents to the content collection before you test the search functionality.

·         Run an FQL test on the content collection. To do this, follow these steps:

a.     Open a browser window on your FAST server, and visit the FAST Query Language (FQL) test page at http://localhost:[base_port+280]. For example, if you use the default base port of 13000, the URL for the FQL test page is http://localhost:13280/.

b.    Search on a word that’s contained in the test document that you uploaded (C:\FAST_test.txt). For example, search on “world” or “test.” The result set should contain your test document.

Note: You can also set other parameters on the FQL testing page, such as language, debug information, and so on.
 

What does an FQL test tell you after you receive an error message from the FAST Search Center? A failed test query tells you that something is wrong in your FAST configuration. A successful test query tells you that some kind of communication problem exists between FAST and SharePoint.

 

·         Use these tips to troubleshoot the following error scenarios:

o    The search request was unable to connect to the Search Service: This message indicates that SharePoint cannot connect to the FAST Search engine. This may occur for several reasons. In most cases, some URL or port settings are wrong on a FAST service application. This problem may also occur because the FAST Query service application is not associated with the current Web application.

o    Unable to display this Web part: This message indicates that something is probably misconfigured in FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010. Verify the URL and port numbers again.

o    If Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint thumbnails are not displayed in the result set, a problem exists in your Office Web Apps installation. Either the program is not installed correctly or it’s not enabled on your site.

Note: When the FAST Search service runs its initial crawl, it can take a long time to generate and display the document thumbnails and previews.

 

Looking Ahead

Unless you experience any deployment errors, you should now be all set to put FAST Search Server 2010 to work. In a future article, I’ll provide more detail about F4SP functionality, additional deployment troubleshooting help for FAST Search, and some best practices for this powerful search engine.
 

Listing 1: Sample Code for Deployment.XML File

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<deployment comment="3 node FAST Search farm configuration" xmlns="http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch">
  <instanceid>FASTSearchMultiNodeDemo</instanceid>

  <connector-databaseconnectionstring />
  <host name="fastserver1.contoso.com">
    <admin />
    <indexing-dispatcher />
    <content-distributor />
    <webanalyzer server="true" link-processing="true" lookup-db="true" />
    <document-processor processes="2" />
  </host>
  <host name="fastserver2.contoso.com">
    <searchengine row="0" column="0" />
  </host>
  <host name="fastserver3.contoso.com">
    <searchengine row="1" column="0" />
    <query />
  </host>
  <searchcluster>
    <row id="0" index="primary" search="true" />
    <row id="1" index="none" search="true" />
  </searchcluster>
</deployment>