NetIQ Corp. today becomes the latest vendor to release software that helps IT administrators keep track of instant messaging traffic, a market that is starting to pick up steam as corporate use of IM soars.
The San Jose, Calif., company will release the first of what will eventually be a suite of instant messaging manageability products to help administrators keep tabs on the increasing IM use in their companies. Until now, only a handful of startup companies had offered IM manageability software.
The initial product, called imMarshal 1.0 for MSN, is software intended for use in organizations where Microsoft's MSN Messenger is the dominant IM client. It acts as a content filter, virus scanner and archival tool for companies concerned that employees may be overusing or abusing IM -- or risking corporate network security.
The software will compete with products made by IMLogic, Boston, and FaceTime Communications Inc., Foster City, Calif., both of which are already licensed by Microsoft to provide logging and auditing capabilities in MSN Messenger.
The market is maturing a bit but, over time, customers will probably see more companies join in, particularly those that sell anti-spam and antivirus software, said Matt Cain, a vice president at Meta Group, Stamford, Conn.
By most accounts, IM usage is skyrocketing. Instant messaging today accounts for about 5 billion messages per day, according to some experts. International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass., consulting firm, said last year that IM was one of the applications that is driving the overall messaging applications market from $1.1 billion in 2001 to $4.2 billion in 2006.
Customers are trying to grab control of IM traffic while it's still in its infancy, said Art Costigan, managing partner at Global Network Security Consultants, a Huntingdon Valley, Pa., reseller that has tested the software and plans to serve as a distributor for NetIQ.
With so much unmonitored traffic, administrators are worried that IM may be leaving companies vulnerable to viruses by providing a way to access the corporate network without traversing any sort of content-filtering software.
"We are concerned about viruses getting into our network, but we also don't want patient information getting out of the hospital through MSN Messenger, and we don't want people chatting or being in conversations where they are not productive," said Stephen Tucker, director of IT at the Bay Crest Center for Geriatric Care, a teaching hospital in Toronto.
The imMarshal server sits on the network between the firewall and client workstations. Chris Williams, director of messaging management at NetIQ, said the software lets IT administrators block and prevent dangerous content from entering the network. Customers can establish policies for IM that can be as stringent or as lenient as an organization desires.
For example, companies in industries such as finance and health care have strict rules about archiving all messages. They can log and archive each message if they desire, or even add a disclaimer. IT managers can decide whether to track all chats, internal chats or none at all. They can also restrict IM usage to certain hours of the day.
Businesses with fewer concerns about IM usage may only want to scan executables for viruses before they are passed to the recipient.
NetIQ is planning future versions of the software for other platforms, including IBM Corp.'s Lotus Domino, and Microsoft's real-time communications server software, code-named Greenwich, which is due out later this year. NetIQ's software is priced according to the number of users in an organization. The enterprise version, which includes a four-server license, sells for $2,000, plus $750 per 100 users.
The imMarshal software was purchased as part of NetIQ's acquisition of Auckland, New Zealand-based Marshal Software Ltd. in December.
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