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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Yahoo! Inc yesterday unveiled its strategy to push instant messaging into the enterprise, saying its massive installed base will help it compete against established pure-play IM providers, and should ultimately force the three big IM players to interoperate,

Kevin Murphy writes

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Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise Edition will go into beta this quarter and is expected to ship in the first quarter next year. Yahoo's director of strategy for enterprise solutions, Ken Hickman, told ComputerWire the system addresses security and control, companies' biggest concerns, as well as integration with Yahoo's existing IM user base.

"Yahoo's current IM service is used by over 20 million people, and many of these are already business users... using it between 9 and 5 for business productivity," Hickman said. "The pure-plays don't have sanctioned interoperability with any of the major networks, they just have hacks."

In the consumer space, Yahoo rules alongside America Online Inc's AIM and Microsoft Corp's MSN Messenger. It has never been possible to message the user of one network from another network's client, and none of them have yet shipped an enterprise IM system that interoperates with the public networks, though all three intend to.

Many companies that provide IM clients have allowed users to message these big networks, though they are often blocked by the networks themselves. AOL is the biggest offender here, but Yahoo also doesn't see the value of interoperating with smaller enterprise players. It would, however, like to tie in with MSN and AOL.

"We're open to interoperability between the three big public networks," said Hickman. "But opening it to a small vendor that is going to leverage our infrastructure for their business is not something we could do for free."

"AOL is coming out with an enterprise product, and that will put a lot of pressure on them to interoperate," said Hickman. "Since these services have been free, there hasn't been a strong impetus to develop interoperability, but now companies are paying for this software, it should facilitate that."

The forthcoming Yahoo product will integrate with existing IT infrastructure, including application servers from BEA, Tibco, Sun and Oracle, and LDAP directories including those from Sun, Oracle, Microsoft and Novell (these companies, with the exception of Microsoft, were named as partners in yesterday's announcement).

"We will compete with Microsoft with respect to openness," said Hickman. The system will not be restricted to integrating with software running on Windows platforms. "That kind of thing is very important to Fortune 500 companies."

The system will be able to authenticate users against the local user directory, but will use Yahoo's presence servers. Users in an enterprise will be able to message any Yahoo Messenger user. A separate namespace in the presence network will allow users to see which users have been authenticated in their own corporate domains.

The client will also use Windows' built-in SSL capabilities to encrypt messages sent between Enterprise Edition users. If the company has installed logging and archiving servers from FaceTime Communications Inc or IMLogic Inc, clear text versions will be sent to those servers simultaneously.

© ComputerWire

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