(Friday 13th November – 0830-about 1200, room A2-075)
FAST is a Norwegian software company that was acquired by Microsoft about a year and a half ago. In this class (held with an EMBA class, we will hear presentations from people in FAST, from Accenture, and from BI. The idea is to showcase a research initiative, to learn something about search technology, and to see how a software company accesses the market in cooperation with partners.
To prepare for this meeting, it is a good idea to read up on search technology, both from a technical and business perspective. Do this by looking for literature on your own – but here are a few pointers, both to individual articles, blogs, and other resources:
- How search engines work: Start with Wikipedia on web search engines, go from there.
- Brin, S. and L. Page (1998). The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Seventh International WWW Conference, Brisbane, Australia. (PDF). The paper that started Google.
- Rangaswamy, A., C. L. Giles, et al. (2009). "A Strategic Perspective on Search Engines: Thought Candies for Practitioners and Researchers." Journal of Interactive Marketing 23: 49-60. (in Blackboard). Excellent overview of some strategic issues around search technology.
- Ghemawat, S., H. Gobioff, et al. (2003). The Google File System. ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, ACM. (this is medium-to-heavy-duty computer science – I don’t expect you to understand this in detail, but not the difference of this system to a normal database system: The search system is optimized towards an enormous number of queries (reads) but relatively few insertions of data (writes), as opposed to a database, which is optimized towards handling data insertion fast and well.)
- These articles on Google and others.
- O’Reilly Radar (main page|search specific)
- John Batelle’s Searchblog (main page|search specific)
- Yours truly on search (considerable duplication here).
- This changes almost on a daily basis, but here is a blogpost with some pointers.
Longer stuff, such as books:
- Barroso, L. A. and U. Hölzle (2009). The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines. Synthesis Lectures on Computer Architecture. M. D. Hill, Morgan & Claypool. (Excellent piece on how to design a warehouse-scale data center – i.e., how do these Google-monsters really work?)
- Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York, Henry Holt and Company. Brilliant on how the availability of search changes our relationship to information.
- Morville, P. (2005). Ambient Findability, O’Reilly. See this blog post.
- Batelle, J. (2005). The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. London, UK, Penguin Portfolio. See this blog post.
Here is some more detail on FAST that you are unlikely to find in any of the cases: The employees are kind of to Oslo what those who work for Goldman Sachs, Apple etc. are to New York. They are of above-average intelligence, arrogance, chutzpah, and general self-esteem. In general, they also have a military-style sense of loyalty to FAST, as you will find out if ever you lightly criticize any aspect whatsoever of the company to them. They can be frequently found chatting up the most attractive members of the opposite sex in Oslo Vest’s cocktail party circuit.
I wonder whom you have met….hmmm. Some members of the early sales force and some of the investors, yeah, but I think you’ll find most FAST employees sadly missing from the Oslo Vest cocktail circuit (indeed, from any cocktail circuit).
These are my recollections from 2005 – 2006 at least; I concede that those were somewhat different times in that the economy was booming, and lots more cocktail party circuits were in existence in those years (and those that still are were rather busier back then). Yes though, I am speaking about much of the sales force, but also a lot of guys whose roles straddle tech/management roles.
On a somewhat related note, I still can’t understand why no one has created a Scandinavian technology-stock exchange-traded fund. Some of the tech companies in the region are really exciting from a long-term investment standpoint, and I think such a vehicle would be hugely popular among U.S. and foreign investors.