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It was possible to syndicate search between search server 2008 and SP2010 enterprise search. Is this still the case? I understand that the new product is based on FAST search, but is the protocol still the same?

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Yes, indeed the protocols have not really changed from that respect. You are still looking at either Federating Search Results (http://blogs.3sharp.com/2013/01/04/build-a-federated-result-source-for-sharepoint-2013-search-part-1/) or rely on the Search Connector Framework - pretty much the same as with SPS 2010 to connect to external data-sources via BDC (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee556429.aspx)

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In addition to using fedration, you can publish the Search Server Application from 2013 and consume it in another 2010 or 2013 farm. Then queries all queries would be served from 2013.

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