Thursday, May 23, 2024

Can Enterprise IM Firms Work with Public IM?

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As instant messaging (IM) takes hold in the enterprise, companies wanting IM will find themselves pulled in two decidedly different directions. One will take them down the path of installing an enterprise IM (EIM) system that’s either completely closed off to the outside world, or will have interoperability features with the big 4 of public IM — AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. The other road will see enterprises trying to deal with an influx of public IM-using employees who basically refuse to give up their instant access to both personal and business contacts.

This article is for EIM companies in the second group.

I’ve been saying for quite a while now that EIM firms need to go beyond just implementing EIM systems to designing applications that work with instant messaging. And a lot of firms are moving in that direction.

Boston-based IMlogic definitely finds itself in that second group. Its IMlog IMLog Enterprise can be seamlessly inserted into an existing network and offers IT managers the ability to manage, archive, and report on any IM traffic within the enterprise. It can report on the public networks of AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger; enterprise IM servers like Microsoft Exchange 2000 IM and IBM Lotus Sametime; and hosted IM services like Reuters Messaging.

IMlogic’s “proof in the pudding” is its relationship with Microsoft, which last February said it would license IMlogic’s archiving technology for its next-generation enterprise real-time communications (RTC) solutions.

I recently spoke with IMlogic Founder and CEO Frances deSouza, who has some tips for other EIM companies — even his competitors, I suppose — wanting to work with the big public IM network operators.

In general, how can enterprise IM companies work with the public IM providers?
I think we’re reaching the stage where instant messaging is obviously continuing to mature as an enterprise-class communications medium. That means that you’re starting to move away from people who are hacking into the IM networks, and providing a product based on that, and then saying it’s good enough for the enterprise. I think what we’re going to start seeing is people actually working with network providers like Microsoft and AOL, and actually have “sanctioned” ability to use their products.

That’s what we’ve done in the archiving and compliance/management space with our relationship with Microsoft. First, we’re a Microsoft partner, but there’s over 2,500 Microsoft partners. So we’ve taken that relationship a step further, as Microsoft has licensed part of our technology and will ship it with their instant messaging server next year.

As enterprises start to view instant messaging as a critical part of their infrastructure, they’re starting to expect enterprise-class accessibility and availability. They’re saying, “Look, I want to see that my network provider or infrastructure provider plays well with the (public IM) networks, with their blessing.

How did you come to work with Microsoft? Has that been an easy relationship?
It took awhile for it to happen. The bar is very high now at Microsoft, even for instant messaging, because it is viewed as a core part of an enterprise’s communications platform. I think the thinking back in ’96, ’97 and ’98 was that (IM) was more of a consumer play, and it wasn’t clear that it would be mission critical for an enterprise. Now, Microsoft has turned the dial to say, “This is part of what we’re providing as mission-critical infrastructure.” So they had some pretty stringent requirements around what a product should be able to do before they embed it into their product. It was a high bar from a coding practices requirement; a high bar from a performance aspect.

One of the things we did was…they took the performance requirements of the Exchange server and made the performance requirements of the RTC (real-time communications) server 20 times as high. That’s a pretty big jump. It takes time to develop code and test it to make sure it clears those hurdles.

Click here for page 2 of this article.

How is the relationship with Microsoft going now, and where do you see it going in the future?
It’s going great, once we got it in there. I think the most important thing for both Microsoft and us is that we can go to our customers and say, “If you buy IMlogic’s compliance/archiving application today — and we do it for Exchange, AOL, MSN and Yahoo — and you upgrade your infrastructure anytime in the next few years from Exchange to Windows RTC, IMlogic’s product is built into RTC. So your archives upgrade seamlessly…So the question becomes as a customer, “If I think I’m going to upgrade my Microsoft infrastructure anytime in the next seven years, I should be thinking about IMlogic.” And that’s a pretty powerful proposition to customers, because the whole point about archives is to have them be around.

Let’s talk about the other two major public IM providers — AOL and Yahoo. Do you see them moving towards working with companies like you, and would you like to see that happen?
Both. I think the success of any platform depends on the momentum of the ISVs (Internet-service vendors) around it. I think if you look at any communications medium, people are saying, “Well, for any communications medium to take off, there’s a lot of enterprise infrastructure that’s required,” like a compliance application. And I think the network providers want lots of people to help support their platform.

Certainly in the financial-services world, customers are saying, “I’m looking at IM usage, and I finally recognize it is happening in a big way in my company. Do these IM clients and IM networks have the necessary supporting infrastructure to keep them on my desktop? Can I manage them? Can I archive them? Are they secure?” To the extent that a network can point to partners and say, “Well, for that application, here’s a partner that does it, so you should keep us on the desktop.”

Are you seeing movement from them yet (AOL and Yahoo)?
We are. Obviously from our perspective, sooner is better. That’s about all I can say.

When it comes to working with public IM networks within the enterprise, what should companies be thinking about?
Rather than taking a defensive posture to instant messaging, I think companies want to support (IM) usage. There’s four things that they need to do to be able to support IM usage within their companies. The first thing they need to get is visibility of instant-messaging usage in their company. They need to be able to see who is using what kind of IM client, what are the screen names of people and how that maps to their directories. The second thing they need is reporting, and to be able to generate traffic usage stats by department, employee, average message size, time of day traffic, and that kind of thing.

The third thing is, if necessary, compliance-level archiving — to be able to say for select groups of people, depending on the industry you’re in, you’ll have some compliance requirements and need archiving. Fourth is security. If you don’t have it, you could have people sending viruses into the company and confidential documents and data could be going out.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

Deploying Enterprise Instant Messaging
IMlogic Founder and CEO Frances deSouza, who ran Microsoft’s Real-time Collaboration Group and was responsible for Exchange Instant Messaging and other products, will be speaking on “Deploying Enterprise Instant Messaging” at the InstantMessagingPlanet Fall 2002 Conference and Expo. Click here for more details.

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