Yesterday, the Infrastructure Update for Office SharePoint Server (as well as WSS and Project Server) was released. This update makes changes to content publishing as well as Enterprise Search. The install went smoothly. Just remember like the service pack, you need to install the WSS update first. There are two notable changes as far as search goes. First is the addition of Federated Search which comes over from the Search Server line of products. The second is a new set of administration pages for setting up search.
If you are not familiar with Federated Search, it basically gives you the ability to have your search results page query additional content indexes that are not on your farm (i.e.: Live Search or Google). After you get the update deployed to your MOSS server(s), go create a new Search Center with Tabs site. Immediately, you will notice that it looks slightly different. The first thing that is changed is that there is a Content Editor web part underneath the search box which basically has a link to a disclaimer that says you searches also pull content from the Internet. I found this quite lame so I deleted it immediately. Perform a search and you will see that the search results page is different now too. The search results are the same but there is two new instances of the Federated Results web part. This new web part takes what you searched for and also passes it to Windows Live search. It works by specifying a Federated Search Location.
This is where the new administration pages come in. The existing search pages are still there under the link Search Settings, but if you look in your SSP, you will see a new link for Search Administration. Just about every page for configuring search has been updated. The first page you see displays the same basic information on search but also has two new web parts on it (new in Microsoft.Office.Server.Search.dll) that display currently running crawls and crawls that have recently finished. The Content Sources page has been updated to show how long the current crawl has been running as well as the duration of the last crawl. A new Crawl Log page which lets you get to all crawl logs in one place but the only identifier on them is a GUID, so you have to click on each one to view what it is. I was sad to see that the interface for mapping crawled properties to managed properties still has not changed. Of anything that needed to be updated it was that since it is very difficult to pick properties with long names. A new Proxy and Timeouts page lets you specify to use a proxy server as well as specify the timeout to use when crawling.
There is also a page to configure Federated Search. The first thing to note is that the local search index is listed here as Local Search Results. From what I can tell is that this really only allows for it to be used in a Federated Results web part. From what I can tell there are no changes to the CoreResultsWebPart. Which means you are not going to be displaying federated results with it. This also means that if you were getting your hopes up that you could display search results from your local index and some place else all mixed together it isn't going to happen. Out of the box there are two other federation search locations that are used to query Live Search. It is here where you configure the URLs to these external searches and provide XSLT to configure the output in the Federated Results web part. There is also a link to an online gallery of other federated search connectors for things such as Google, Yahoo, etc.
All in all, I am pretty excited about these new changes. The new search stuff is really nice and I am looking forward to using it more. Also note that Microsoft recommends installing this update as soon as possible. Here is more info about the search specific stuff from the Enterprise Search Team's blog. I expect I will be posting more about using these new features soon.