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Microsoft's FAST enterprise search product used to be a stand-alone product before being purchased by Microsoft. It is now re-branded as Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.

My question is can one use the FAST functionality independently of SharePoint the way one could formerly? I understand that I will need to license and pay for SharePoint, that is not the issue, the question is using it independently of SharePoint.

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You can still use FAST ESP - which does not require SharePoint.

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    Which are now called "FAST Search Server for Internal Applications" (FSIA) and "FAST Search Server for Internet Sites" (FSIS). Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 9:26
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No, you will still be required to have a SharePoint instance that controls the search crawling and provides a search interface, even if you are only consuming it from the webservices.

You can still crawl non SharePoint information and surface it from another platform, but a SharePoint application is still there. Thus the requirement for a SharePoint license.

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