Companies looking to add instant messaging to their enterprise communications or gain control of the unofficial use of IM in their organizations got a powerful new option last week when America Online Inc. released its long-awaited enterprise IM service.
Known as Enterprise AIM Services, the technology adds security and management services to AOLs market-leading consumer IM service, AIM (AOLs Instant Messenger), which has more than 180 million registered users and handles more than 1.5 billion instant messages a day, said AOL officials, in Dulles, Va.
The centerpiece of the release is AIM Enterprise Gateway, a proxy between users inside and outside a companys firewall that enables enterprises to determine control of access, routing and permissions. It also provides logging, auditing and usage reporting with embedded technology from FaceTime Communications Inc.
AOL is offering an optional Private Domain Service with Federated Authentication that lets companies maintain consistent user identities across corporate communications tools and centrally manage users from their corporate directories, AOL officials said.
In addition, AOL is offering a Developer Access Package and Certified Developer Program to support the extension of AIMs IM and presence awareness technology to other applications. AOL is working on an AIM client with encryption capabilities, which is in beta, officials said.
AOL officials said the consumer AIM service is already used in 60 percent of businesses. However, not all of those businesses may be good candidates for the new enterprise service.
Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc., a full-service brokerage house in St. Louis, uses AIM now, along with Microsoft Corp.s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Inc.s Yahoo Messenger. The company has about 50 users of the IM services among its brokers and institutional traders, who use them for internal and external communications.
The Enterprise AIM Services Playbill
Users pick the service they want, and Stifel Nicolaus IT department manages the usage, including auditing, logging and monitoring, with IMlogic Inc.s IM Manager product. Lee Blackmore, director of IT at Stifel Nicolaus, said that setup meets his companys IM needs at this point.
“[Enterprise AIM Services] looks like a good tool, but I think it would be overkill for us,” Blackmore said. “The way we look at it, weve got things in place now, and we dont want to change it.”
Blackmore said IM is available only to revenue-producing employees—450 brokers and 40 institutional traders—but only about 50 of those employees currently use it. He does not anticipate an enterprisewide rollout. “If we add more seats, then we may look to go with Enterprise AIM,” he said.
AOL plans to extend Enterprise AIM Services next year with support for sending encrypted instant messages that use security credentials issued by VeriSign Inc.
In addition, AOL plans to offer licensing and subscription options for Enterprise AIM Gateway, which is available now. Fees will be on a per-seat basis with the cost diminishing as the number of seats increases. Sources close to the company said tiered per-seat pricing will start at $34 to $40.