Set up a federation connector (Search Server 2008)

Search Server 2008

Updated: March 3, 2008

Applies To: Microsoft Search Server 2008


Topic Last Modified: 2008-07-21

Federation in Microsoft Search Server 2008 enables end users to submit a query that searches multiple data sources and combines the results into a single search results page.

These data sources can include:

  • Your company's enterprise content repositories.

  • Internet search engines or subscription-based services used by your company.

  • Enterprise documents indexed by Search Server 2008 in other company division or world regions.

When the end user submits a query, Search Server 2008 formats and renders the results together with your indexed results.

This article summarizes step-by-step how to use federation connectors to connect to data sources in the enterprise or on the World Wide Web.

Consider the searching needs and habits of the end users in your company. What content do end users need to find to be productive? What search queries are they currently using?

If you have never worked with federation before, see Plan the end-user search experience (Search Server 2008) for a list of issues to consider when planning the search experience for the end users in your organization.

After you have identified a specific need for information, you need to find a data source that provides that information. One example of a suitable data source is a searchable XML feed, preferably RSS that returns information based on a query. You can look for and evaluate existing data sources and feeds within your organization and on the World Wide Web that might provide the content that your end users need.

The following are some of the ways of finding and obtaining a suitable feed for a data source:

  • Check the Online Gallery to see if a federated connector already exists. You can download and import connectors that meet your needs.

  • Check to see if your repository, Web site, or application already has a feed. You can use Windows Internet Explorer 7 to help you detect if a Web site has an existing RSS feed. When a compatible feed is available on a site, the RSS icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar turns orange. If a feed is available, make sure the feed is query-dependent by using a parameter such as ?q=searchTerms.

  • If you are looking for Web content, try using a search engine with a restricted search to your content. For example, you can use Live Search to search Wikipedia content by using the following query: search terms

  • If you are looking for Web content but there isn't a feed or it is not being searched by a search engine, try using an interface to convert HTML to RSS. For more information, see Architecture Guidance for Building Federated Search Connectors.

  • If you control the repository or application, you can expose a feed through code.

  • If you don't control the source, you can create an interface that exposes a feed to allow communication between Search Server 2008 federation and the data source. For example, you can create a simple .aspx page that runs a database query based on passed parameters and returns XML. For more information, see Federated Search Connector Sample).
    You can also create a more sophisticated transform that calls the repository's Object Model based upon the query, and then formats the search results before returning XML.

If you create your own feed, we recommend making the location OpenSearch and RSS-compliant.

You should consider including a mix of internal and external data sources in your federated search solution. For a technical background about federation in Search Server 2008, see the Federated Search Overview.

After you have located a feed, it is easy to connect it to a federated location. You can create a new federated location for the feed, or import and customize an existing one, by using the Manage Federated Locations page in Search Server 2008 or by creating your own definition text. In either case, a federated location is comprised of the following information:

  • Location type

  • Query and More Results link templates

  • Triggers

  • Display information

  • Restrictions

  • Authentication and credentials information

This information is stored in the Search Server 2008 federation system and can be exported and imported through a Federation Location Definition (*.fld) file.

Search Server 2008 allows you to connect to the most popular data sources without writing any code by downloading federated connectors from the Online Gallery. These connectors are authored by the Search Server 2008 partner community.

To use *.fld files that you have downloaded, open the Search Administration page in Search Server 2008, click Federated Locations, and then click Import Location.