IBM has thrown its weight behind the use of the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol standard for interoperability, and will announce on Dec. 6 that Lotus Sametime 7.5 instant messaging customers can now communicate with users of AIM and Google Talk, and will be able to do so with Yahoo Messenger in a matter of weeks.
This is also the first time IBM has publicly announced its support of the XMPP standard for interoperability with Sametime, but it has been a longtime supporter of the Session Initiated Protocol (SIP/SIMPLE) standard, Akiba Saeedi, the program director for IBM Lotus Sametime, told eWEEK.
"IBM is joining AOL, Google, Jabber and Yahoo! in support of the SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP industry standards, which are propelling change and growth in the real-time collaboration industry, and helping the technology evolve beyond its basic chat roots to the centerpiece for varied types of communication such as VOIP [voice over IP] and Web conferencing," she said.
Interoperability with Yahoo Messenger is also expected within the next few weeks, meaning that Lotus Sametime 7.5 users will then be able to send and receive instant messages, and view the presence awareness status, of more than 157 million instant messaging users worldwide—some 70 percent of the worldwide instant messaging user base.
But the interoperability between these IM platforms is only available to Lotus Sametime 7.5 users, who will also not be able to interoperate with Microsofts MSN Messenger, Windows Live Messenger or Live Communication Server, Saeedi said.
"Interoperability between Lotus Sametime and MSN or Live Communication Server is not currently available. Our goal is to allow Lotus Sametime users to connect to any public instant messaging community they would like. Todays announcement, and IBMs support of both XMPP and SIP/SIMPLE, is a big step in that direction, and we will continue to work towards achieving that goal," she said.
IBM believed that clearinghouses, such as the one from AOL—access to which is included in the Sametime entitlement—can be used to connect enterprise IM systems with those enterprise IM vendors that do not fully support standard protocols, Saeedi said.
Michael Rhodin, the general manager for IBM Lotus, said that the IBM Global CEO Study, dated March 1, 2006, found that executives across the world believed they had to communicate beyond corporate walls to achieve effective growth.
"IBM is the first major enterprise vendor to use computing standards to connect over 70 percent of the worldwide instant messaging user base," he said.
Lotus Sametime will connect with AIM, Google Talk and, soon, Yahoo Messenger through the IBM Lotus Sametime Gateway, which acts as an intermediary between Lotus Sametime and each public IM community, Rhodin said.
Access to the AOL, Yahoo and Google IM communities is included in the license for Lotus Sametime 7.5, and those customers can download the gateway from IBM Passport Advantage, he said.
The gateway essentially receives the instant messages, translates them into the proper protocol, and delivers them to the recipients, regardless of platform.
IT administrators can use the policy management feature of the Lotus Sametime Gateway to provide customized access based on a users business need, Rhodin said.
Lotus Sametime users will also be able to add their AIM, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger contacts directly to their Lotus Sametime client, while the availability status of their external contacts will also be displayed within Lotus Sametime.
Executives from AOL, Google and Yahoo all say the move will make instant messaging communication easier, and seamless, for users across their platforms.
"Tens of millions of people around the globe use instant messaging each day to enhance their business communications. By working together to connect Lotus Sametime users with the global AOL messaging community, were making it even easier for IM users to send messages across the street or across the ocean," said Brian Curry, the vice president for business services at AOL.
For his part, Mike Jazayeri, a product manager for Google Talk, said the companys goal has always been to put real-time communication at a users fingertips whenever and wherever they want it.
"Standards like XMPP and the commitment of industry partners are essential to achieving that goal," he said in a statement.
Jeff Bonforte, the senior director for real time communications at Yahoo, welcomed the move, saying the company was pleased to provide high-quality interoperability between Yahoo Messenger and Lotus Sametime users to enhance productivity and collaboration in the workplace.
"We will continue to work with market leaders who share our commitment to provide a safe and convenient experience for IM users," he said.