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Enterprise IM has dues to pay

Everyone's getting the message now -- IM is going to be big business. But this well-established personal tool has many dues to pay before it becomes a mainstream business tool.

BOSTON -- The job of reining in instant messaging to make it a manageable part of the enterprise and a viable business for vendors is fraught with questions and concerns that the industry has only begun to address, said one Microsoft executive speaking at Instant Messaging Planet Spring 2003.

David Gurle, product unit manager at Microsoft, outlined the challenges ahead for enterprise customers who want to control instant messaging within corporate walls. He also confirmed that the beta version of Greenwich, Microsoft's realtime communications server, will be available Friday.

On the vendor and service provider side, companies are struggling to create a business model and price products. There are also technical issues to overcome, such as product incompatibility, the need to develop a common authentication and authorization model, and the need for a server-based name space management system.

There are also questions from customers about how to leverage IM or presence awareness information with other investments and how to integrate IM with directory services. "None of these questions were there a year ago," Gurle said.

Some customers agreed that the pieces that will make IM a stronger enterprise product must coalesce before the technology can be truly useful. "In the enterprise, an IM infrastructure must be managed on the back end," said Laurence Spitzer, a consultant with Phoenix Life Insurance, Hartford, Conn.

Phoenix Life Insurance uses IBM Lotus Domino as its e-mail platform, and Spitzer is concerned that since most companies will use the products that are attached to their messaging platforms, there will be islands of connectivity.

Spitzer said that companies must decide their IM strategies based on the technology's value to their own corporate products. He said that he would like to see presence awareness technology built into applications such as streaming audio and video and someday, perhaps, within a financial trading application.

But "IM has a lot of growing up to do beyond what my daughter does on her keyboard," he said.


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