With its new ability to extend collaboration to Office productivity applications and to bridge communications among organizations, Microsoft Corp.s Live Communications Server 2005 is a good enterprise instant messaging platform choice for a wider variety of companies. Shipping since last month, Live Communications Server is priced at $787 for the Standard Edition and $3,154 for the Enterprise Edition, with client access licenses costing $31 each.If all of those "onlys" are OK by your organization, then this version of Live Communications Server is a worthy purchase or upgrade from the last release. Companies still running instant messaging from Exchange 5.5 will also find this a good update, provided they have or are willing to implement Active Directory. eWEEK Labs found several excellent enhancements in Live Communications Server 2005s Messenger 5.1 client, including the ability to create federated relationships for connecting with other organizations. However, Live Communications Servers system requirements have become more complex with the 2005 version, especially in the Enterprise Edition. Tapping all the features requires considerable administrative work during setup, and overall administration isnt as easy as wed like. Click here to read about "Istanbul," Microsofts new rich client beta for Live Communications Server that integrates IM, voice, video and Web conferencing. IT managers have options for configuring Live Communications Server 2005 to go beyond firewalls: They can broker trusted communications between two domains or host IM for business partners through an access proxy. Proxy servers can also be used to host IM-based applications that a company might not want to run on a server with other IM traffic, such as an application that provides chat-based customer support. Click here to read about how the proxy architecture can enable users on separate instant messaging networks and separate domains to communicate as if on the same network. With this release, Microsoft has added a number of administrative enhancements, including the ability to cluster multiple servers with the Enterprise Edition and improved scalability in terms of clients per server (up to 20,000 users per server). In general, we found the administrative enhancements to be welcome, including a new MMC (Microsoft Management Console) interface and tabs on the Active Directory user configuration interface that make it easier to manage users in groups. In tests we could change user configuration settings en masse, such as granting the ability to work in a federated environment. We could also give groups of users the ability to use IM on the server. However, the console creates each users unique SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) identifier by accessing his or her SMTP address from Active Directory. Managers who want to obfuscate IM addresses of users connecting to public networks must plan accordingly. Next page: Archiving.
Live Communications Server 2005 runs only on Windows Server 2003 and requires Active Directory; the new Messenger client runs only on Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Live Communications Server supports only Messenger 5.0 and 5.1 clients.