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8/28/2005
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Instant Messaging Is Moving From Isolation To Federation

Ad hoc IM solutions no longer cut it, but while federation is a moving target, it defines the future of enterprise instant messaging.

Instant messaging traffic continues to mushroom. According to an in-depth study in July by the Radicati Group 867 million IM accounts exist, primarily on the public networks where IM first planted its roots. Radicati estimates that 280 million IM accounts for enterprise IM vendors will be federated with public IM networks and business users of public IM services by the end of 2005.

Other sources estimate 60 to 360 million IM users in 85-90 percent of enterprises. According to Peter Shaw, CEO of Akonix, a provider of enterprise IM solutions, more than 90 percent of IM in business still is through general-public systems. But according to Radicati, IM management is becoming increasingly critical in enterprises as they seek security against relentlessly increasing spim, viruses, and worms, as well as the need to archive and log messages in the face of regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, the emerging issue is how to herd together and federatethe disparate internal and external IM systems that are so pervasive in enterprises. The objective is to enable all users within the enterprise to use instant messaging to communicate all externally and internally.

Think It Through

As the above diagram suggests, enterprise IT professionals need to think through whether user needs require a private or public IM system, and whether to require a system that runs on internal servers or is hosted on third-party servers. For example, AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN will host IM needs on their public servers, while Omnipod will do so on their private servers. Meanwhile, Akonix installs on internal servers through their public resources, while IBM Lotus, Jabber, Inc., and Antepo install and run privately on your internal systems.

Until recently, the prevailing wisdom was that enterprises required third-party, business-class solutions installed on their own systems for security. But Peter Quintas, CTO at SilkRoad technology a provider of enterprise content management and collaboration software, says bridging corporate IM to public networks will drive more IM deployment.

Meanwhile, Maxime Seguineau, CEO of Antepo, whose Open Presence Network provides enterprise IM and presence capabilities, advises that you should ensure that your IM vendor offers comprehensive federation features with other vendors using XMPP and variations of SIP/SIMPLE.

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