Thursday, February 5, 2015

Enterprise Search part 6 - Managed Properties

Fast Search for SharePoint (and SharePoint 2013) has a feature called Managed Properties. These are, in short, operators that trigger search to key in on a specific property/metadata (e.g., a field in a list or library). If you read my previous post on search; Enterprise Search - Boolean and other advanced search techniques; you'll see that there are many out-of-the-box managed properties that are mapped. A couple of examples are "Filename:" and "Author:". To quote the official documentation, a SharePoint farm administrator or search service application administrator "can enhance the end-user search experience by mapping crawled properties to managed properties. Crawled properties are metadata (such as author, title, or subject) that are extracted from documents during crawls. Managed properties can appear in refined searches and help users perform more successful queries."

As a rudimentary example of how one would use a custom (not out-of-the-box) managed property, let's say you have a SharePoint site, and on that site you have a list containing weapon system parts. In this list, you have a column called Weapon System that is populated with data indicating what weapon system the part fits. You could create a view that filters to just that weapon system, but if you wanted to perform a search that returns all parts that go to a particular weapon system, we could create a managed property named, for example, PSWeaponSystem, and mapped that managed property to the [Weapon System] column in your list (via its crawled property). this would allow you to go to the search center and enter in PSWeaponSystem:"Name of the weapon system". Since the managed property is mapped specifically to a column on your list, it will not return extraneous/unrelated records, and would only return records from your list that match data in that column (Weapon System in this example). At the risk of opening a Pandora's Box, SharePoint farm admins can pass this information along to site admins allowing them to request a managed property. Site admins should clearly define their business needs and what they want to accomplish with search. Each managed property would need to be evaluated by a farm admin since it can create a burden on the search system, but managed properties certainly can make make SharePoint search more useful and productive if used correctly.

SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence

Q4 last year, I took a SQL Server course on updating skills to SQL Server 2012 (course 40009A: Updating your Business Intelligence Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2012). Yes, I know SQL Server 2014 is out, but with Microsoft, it's usually best not to be on the bleeding edge of software releases. Instead, most IT pros will say, unless you really need a new feature of the latest version, it's best to wait until Service Pack 1 has been released since RTM can often have a significant number of bugs, many of which are unknown or discovered by the community (meaning you), and are often fixed by SP1. 
I held a certification in SQL Server 2008R2 Business Intelligence, but wanted to ramp up for 2012 since we've been exploring the Business Intelligence functionality with Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server, and I have a major project where I'm deploying SharePoint 2013 farms with SQL Server 2012, and it's geared toward Business Intelligence. I of course want to be better versed in the version we are using, and the course, while not highly detailed, was a good introduction to the new features. If you are experienced with SQL Server, particularly 2008R2, which introduced many new and improved BI features, I can recommend that course if, and only if you are going to be using SQL Server 2012. If you are going to be using 2014, you will want to take course 10977B: Updating Your SQL Server Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2014As far as I've seen, there is no course available yet that also focuses on updating SQL Server Business Intelligence skills. If you're just interested in learning a bit about the new features of SQL Server 2014, download and read through this free ebook from Microsoft: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2014.