In-Depth

Big three stake a claim in the corporate IM space

The big three instant messaging service vendors -- AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft -- have staked their claims in the potentially lucrative market for corporate IM with products targeted at the enterprise.

Yahoo was the first to offer a corporate version of its IM service, which it debuted last October. Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition is a hosted IM service that provides additional security and administrative control. The product employs 128-bit SSL-based encryption and authenticates users against the corporate directory. An administration kit allows users to deploy, manage and make changes centrally, without having to re-deploy software. This feature makes it easy to enable or disable functionality such as file transfer; to customize buttons, tabs or icons; to enforce virus scanning; and to integrate with third-party server products for logging and archiving, according to company officials.

AOL launched its enterprise IM offering in November 2002. AOL’s Enterprise AIM Services added security and management features to its consumer IM service.

A key component is the AIM Enterprise Gateway, a proxy between users inside and outside a company’s firewall that allows enterprises to determine control of access, routing and permissions. It also provides logging, auditing and usage reporting with embedded technology from FaceTime Communications, an IM management solutions provider.

“With Enterprise AIM Services we’re providing organizations an instant messaging platform using a product that’s familiar and easy to use with the added management and control features they want,” said Jon Miller, chairman and CEO of AOL, in a statement.

AOL plans to further extend its corporate IM product this year with support for encrypted instant messages that utilize security credentials issued by VeriSign Inc.

The same month as the AOL announcement, Microsoft unveiled MSN Messenger Connect, a version of its consumer IM service for secure, business-to-customer communications. In April 2003, Microsoft also unveiled its Real Time Communications (RTC) Server 2003 (formerly code-named Greenwich). Designed for internal company use, RTC Server 2003 is a secure version of the company’s Windows Messenger IM software designed for the enterprise.

Microsoft sees IM as “the cornerstone” of its enterprise communications strategy. The initial version of the RTC Server will support the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which allows multiple forms of media, such as voice, video and data, to be exchanged with other SIP-enabled servers and devices, company officials have said. Future versions of the server will offer Internet phone calling, video conferencing and e-mail, added officials.

Microsoft is also releasing an RTC software development kit (SDK) to provide developers with a tool designed to create business-specific IM solutions that run on RTC Server.

Read the related story “IM invades the enterprise” by John K. Waters

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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