IBM's IM Upgrade Will Link to Other Vendor's Software

Sametime to support communication with AOL, Yahoo and Google systems

ORLANDO -- Users at Lotusphere 2006 here last week said IBM's decision to link its secure messaging system with instant messaging products from America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. could be a boon to their operations.

The new multiprotocol gateway that links the IM offerings of different vendors is part of Version 7.5 of IBM's Sametime tool, which was unveiled here and will ship midyear. The new Sametime IM version also promises improved security and privacy tools.

Daniel Singleton, a corporate programmer/analyst at Assurant Solutions, a division of New York-based specialty insurance company Assurant Inc., said that adding security to public IM clients could go a long way toward increasing IM use among his division's 7,000 Lotus Notes users.

"The key thing is the security," he said. "If the security is there, then I see no reason whatsoever that we wouldn't adopt it. I find it extremely useful. The whole power of something like this is that the more people who are on it, the more effective it becomes."

Management at Assurant Solutions currently sees IM as more of a distraction than a tool, Singleton said. Company policy doesn't allow use of AOL Instant Messenger because of security concerns.

Customer Connection

Jeff Bentley, a messaging engineer at Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia Corp., said the financial institution would find secure multivendor IM systems critical for connecting its brokers to their customers and others. IM use is currently prohibited for most of the bank's brokers because messages can't be filtered, he said.

"It would be huge if we could make it secure for our brokers," Bentley said. "As customers become more savvy, the brokers are also looking at IM as another way to communicate with their clients."

The company will likely evaluate the new Sametime capabilities internally first. If that test is successful, the software could later be rolled out to brokers, Bentley said. He said he supports about 70,000 Lotus Notes users running Version 6 clients and Domino 6.54 on the servers.

David Carswell Sr., president of The VIA Group Inc., a consulting firm in Houston, said his clients -- which include Exxon Mobil Corp. and Halliburton Co. -- are interested in external IM use but are hesitant because of security concerns. Connecting Sametime securely with the three widely used IM networks would be an incentive to revisit the issue, he said. "It will make customers more comfortable because the application sits on their enterprise network under their security controls," Carswell said. He predicted that IBM's move will cause IM to

propagate -- "and probably quite quickly."

Robert Mahowald, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said the move to link IM products could boost business at many companies.

"About 30% to 35% of the public AOL IM accounts are used by corporate consumers to get business done," Mahowald said. Thus, he added, with improved security, these users "will get access to a larger audience."

The new version of Sametime won't support communication with IM tools from Microsoft Corp., a more direct rival of IBM in the corporate IM market. Adam Gartenberg, manager for Lotus real-time and team collaboration at IBM, wouldn't comment on the absence of Microsoft, but he did note that support for more IM products may come later.

"Our goal is to allow users of Sametime to connect with any IM they want to," he said.

Juan Carlos Perez of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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