Microsoft Unleashes Greenwich IM Beta

Adding steam to its efforts to build greater support for collaboration in the enterprise, Microsoft unveiled the first widely available beta of ‘Greenwich,’ the code-name for its new instant messaging and real-time collaboration server software.

“The delivery of this beta represents a milestone in the development of the ‘Greenwich’ technology, which is a component of delivering Microsoft’s overall real-time collaboration vision,” said Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit at Microsoft. “We seek to profoundly change how corporations communicate, by bringing together best-of-breed presence and instant-messaging technologies with enterprise-grade control and manageability. Presence-based communications will revolutionize the way information workers collaborate, in the same way e-mail changed corporate communications in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

The technology is designed to provide a central means that will manage all real-time communications within an enterprise. Greenwich, slated for commercial release in mid-2003, will integrate presence (knowledge of whether a person is online and available) into the Windows Server 2003 platform to give enterprises access to voice, video and data collaboration.

Customers can choose to either use the platform as an out-of-the-box enterprise instant messaging (EIM) solution, or as an extensible, standards-based real-time communications platform.

On the EIM side, the platform is intended to support four key elements: security, manageability, standards-based architecture and extensibility. Microsoft said developers and integrators will be able to build on top of the Greenwich capabilities and modify existing applications that incorporate presence and IM functionality. The technology also supports logging and archiving, giving companies additional tools to help protect corporate privacy and intellectual property, and also helping companies in certain industries — like financial or medical services — to comply with regulatory requirements.

Microsoft said the real-time communications platform will help companies:

* Use presence-based functionality to increase the value of time-sensitive communications by directing messages to available users

* Integrate with Microsoft’s existing MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises service, which provides authentication and manageability for business-to-consumer (B2C) instant messaging

* Enable data collaboration, PC-to-PC voice and video, and other services providing the foundation for future communications applications.

Microsoft is targeting the technology at organizations which already utilize instant messaging but need to secure those communications within their enterprise and with trusted partners.

The technology is supported by the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), already a part of Windows XP’s Windows Messenger client. SIP provides the basis for presence, as well as the ability to support APIs and all of the possible real-time context of text, speech, files and video.

Microsoft has said Greenwich fully integrates with its IT security management structure, and adds protection to unencrypted text traveling across the Internet. Additionally it provides standards support for SSL encryption, Digest and NTLM/Kerberos authentication.