article

Collaborative: Beam Me Up: IM Visits the Enterprise

Posted: 5/2003

Beam Me Up: IM Visits the
Enterprise

By Tara Seals

The real-time, private,
advertising-free chat capability known as instant messaging (IM) long has been
trapped on Planet Youth — for teenagers and college kids it’s as natural as
speaking aloud. Service providers now are looking to beam the tool up to the
enterprise. For most business users, IM hasn’t been in the same galaxy as
collaborative tools like e-mail or Web conferencing, but according to almost
everyone, that’s about to change.

International Data Corp. (IDC) says
close to 20 million people were using instant messaging for business at the end
of last year, and the market research firm expects that number to rise to 300
million by the end of 2005. Gartner Group expects IM to surpass e-mail as a
workplace communication tool by 2006. No fools, service providers are lining up
to find a way to capitalize on the trend.


Click Here For Screen Capture
Microsoft’s pop-up IM window

Capitalize is the key word —
service providers need to monetize the mostly free service. The barrier to using
IM is low: Most users automatically get with Internet access from the Microsoft
Corp. Network (MSN), Yahoo! Inc. or America Online Inc. (AOL), and the only real
obstacle is the danger of ending up with screen names like "foxxyNYC"
and "IamJedi2727." AOL says about 40 percent of this country’s young
people ages 14 to 24 use its AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) service — and AOL
sends in the neighborhood of 2.3 billion AIM messages every day.


Click Here For Screen Capture
Yahoo!’s user interface is
intuitive.

The dilemma of how to turn the
fervor into cash has providers thinking corporate, but others aren’t so sure.

"Ask corporations with
depressingly tight budgets to pay for something they can as consumers have for
free," wrote Adam Fendelman, editor-in-chief of the Midwest
technology-oriented ePrairie newsletter, in a recent column. "When they
reject you, throw in some ‘value-added features’ and see if they bite.
Yawn."

Many workers just take it upon
themselves to down free copies of Yahoo! Messenger or AIM to their PC. Jupiter
Research, which recently hosted a two-day conference on IM for business, notes
this practice is popular because employees can then send messages without the
kind of corporate supervision e-mailers fear — it’s under the radar, so to
speak.


Click Here For Screen Capture

The Yahoo! contact list

Interoperability also is an issue in
IM. If you give your people Yahoo!, and one of your clients has ICQ, you can’t
chat with that client. There is no standardization of protocols in the space,
although vendors are considering the question.

"I think the way it will lay
out over time is that an IT department will select a corporate platform [from
IBM or Microsoft], but will seek tariff-based interoperability with the consumer
networks," said Michael Sampson, an analyst at Ferris Research, speaking at
this year’s Instant Messaging Planet conference in Boston.

Despite these obvious objections,
there is a case for paid-for, sanctioned IM in the enterprise: Employee
productivity and marketing power. A car dealer could give real-time data on the
cars in his lot to someone checking out his Web site. A medical clinic can ping
doctors on an emergency basis. A multinational company can hold a manager’s
meeting on the fly.

The power of real-time, digital
communication is a case that has helped behemoth IBM sign up close to 8 million
corporate users to date for its Lotus Sametime software. Sametime looks and
feels just like any other IM service but offers high-security encryption,
calendar integration, conferencing support and message logging for records
purposes. It also allows other users to see who’s logged on the network (a
capability known as "presence"), so Sametime functions as a handy
roll-call tool as well. No sitting and waiting for an answer, no leaving voice
mails, no speculation as to if someone’s in the office.

The recent release of version 3.0
means Sametime users now can communicate with other Sametime users outside their
own organization (a limitation in the earlier versions). IBM struck a deal with
AOL recently to include a functionality linking user groups — and it allows
interconnectivity with AIM.

"Agile organizations worldwide
need to respond to business and customer demands as fast as possible and with
the most up-to-date information," says Michael Loria, director of advanced
collaboration for IBM Lotus. "Sametime3 opens the lines of instant
communication between organizations, their customers and business
partners."

Oracle Corp. has plans to launch the
Oracle Collaboration Suite Release 2, which will include iMeeting — offering
instant messaging, shared Web browsing, application sharing, Web conferences and
enterprisewide presence detection.

"One of the things that we said
from a broader point of view is that we wanted to add synchronous
collaboration," says Steve Levine, vice president of marketing for the
suite, as opposed to asynchronous services such as e-mail.

IBM and Oracle are two technological
giants with known and trusted names in the enterprise space, and they’re banking
on their experience to win in IM. The three top consumer brands plan to give
them a run for their money, however. Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL all have
enterprise IM offers this year.

Other service providers are taking a
different tack and combining other, more traditionally business-class services
to their IM platforms as a revenue engine. For instance, Bantu Inc. has
integrated WebEx Communications Inc.’s Web conferencing and collaboration
services into its instant message and presence platform, so Bantu customers can
launch interactive WebEx services directly from Bantu’s product.

"Bantu provides persistent
desktop presence that directly complements WebEx’s visual communications
services," says Praful Shah, vice president of strategic communications at
WebEx. "Bantu customers can use presence information to initiate a WebEx
meeting with their colleagues at a moment’s notice, increasing collaboration and
productivity across the enterprise."

The integrated platform targets
enterprises with geographically dispersed work groups or needs for real-time
document sharing, client meetings or distance training.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP)
recently inked a deal with AOL to include the AOL Enterprise AIM service in with
its global hosted enterprise services, which include e-mail messaging and
exchange-on-demand. HP hopes the IM component will give its package a
competitive edge. "Messaging is the circulatory system of today’s
enterprise," says Rene Schuster, vice president and general manager of
consulting and integration at HP’s services division.

The upshot of all this activity and
effort to bring IM to the enterprise and to actually make money from it has yet
to be seen, but should make for good industry-watching this year.

Enterprise
Offers from Mass Market Giants

Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise
Edition

Delivery: Hosted

Screen name: Corporate e-mail
address or Yahoo! screen name

Records: Logging and auditing
available

Security: 128-bit SSL
encryption, virus check-compatible, corporate authentication, firewall
compatibility

Interoperability: With Yahoo!
Network users within and outside of company

Management: Centrally control
users, namespaces and system features; block unauthorized IM
traffic/clients or file transfer capability Cost: $30 per user, depends on
volume

AOL’s Enterprise AIM

Delivery: On-site gateway,
desktop client

Screen name: Corporate e-mail
address or AIM screen name

Records: Logging and auditing,
archiving and reports generation, searchable records

Security: Virus
check-compatible, corporate authentication, firewall compatibility,
VeriSign Inc. encryption available at additional charge

Interoperability: With AIM
users within and outside of company, with IBM’s Lotus Sametime client,
wireless devices that support Short Messaging Service, Wireless
Application Protocol or embedded clients to connect with AIM, and users
can leverage developer kits to customize AIM to other applications.

Management: Identity
Management Services that enable administrators to control access, routing
and permissions; block unauthorized IM traffic/clients Cost: $35 to $40
per user

Microsoft Network Messenger
Connect for Enterprises

Delivery: Hosted

Screen name: Corporate e-mail
address or MS screen name

Records: IMlogic or FaceTime’s
messaging management, logging and archiving software available at extra
cost.

Security: Virus
check-compatible, corporate authentication, firewall compatibility.

Interoperability: With MSN
Messenger users within and outside of company.

Management: Central control of
namespaces; other centralized management applications available from ISV
partners Cost: An annual subscription is $24 per user, with discounts on a
volume basis.

Introducing Greenwich (in beta
testing): Greenwich, to be released in mid-2003, will provide a platform
for real-time communications within businesses, enabling scenarios such as
voice, video, data collaboration, and presence integration across multiple
networks, devices and applications. MSN Messenger Connect will work in
conjunction with Greenwich, to create a security-enhanced,
enterprise-scale services for businesses. Cost is TBD.

Source: Compiled by Author

IM SERVICES WORTH CHECKING OUT

  • Enterprise IM from Jabber
    Differentiator: Open-source.

  • Sun ONE IM from Sun
    Microsystems Inc.

    Differentiator: Part of an initiative wherein the software Internet
    infrastructure is able to provide "information, data and applications
    to anyone, anytime, anywhere, on anything."

  • Natural Messaging Inc.
    Differentiator: Extends enterprise applications to interact securely with
    mobile users.

  • Hub IM from Communicator Inc.
    Differentiator: Federated "gated community" architecture that
    solves issues with sharing customer records, permissioning and
    authenticating user access to information across disparate systems and
    inter-enterprise communications.

  • Envoke from Asynchrony
    Solutions

    Differentiator: Security. Envoke was designed from the ground up to U.S.
    Department of Defense security specifications.

  • e/pop 3.0 from WiredRed
    Software

    Differentiator: The e/pop software developer kit allows complete
    customization, including features such as sound and streaming. White label
    OEM versions are available.

  • imMarshal for MSN from NetIQ
    Corp.

    Differentiator:Essentially a filtering program for MSN Messenger, it will
    support other IM networks by the end of the year, turning it into an
    all-in-one management platform.

LINKS
Jabber www.jabber.com

Sun Microsystems Inc. www.sun.com

Natural Messaging Inc. www.naturalmessaging.com

Communicator www.communicatorinc.com

Asynchrony Solutions www.asolutions.com

WiredRed Software www.wiredred.com

NetIQ Corp. www.netiq.com


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