Microsoft Sets December Release for Next-Gen Enterprise IM Server

Office Live Communications Server 2005, the next version of Microsoft's IM and presence server, will support more users, clustering and failover.

The next version of Microsoft Corp.s enterprise instant messaging and presence server will be available on Dec. 1, the company said late on Monday.

With the release of its Office Live Communications Server 2005, Microsoft also is adding an enterprise edition along with its standard version.

While the basic functionality is available in both editions, the enterprise option supports more users, provides load balancing and server clustering, and includes more management features, said Dennis Karlinsky, the lead product manager for LCS.

As reported earlier, new features in LCS 2005 include federation, so an enterprise can connect its IM and presence with other organizations running LCS 2005, and the ability for remote user to connect without a VPN (virtual private network).

LCS 2005, released to manufacturing on Friday and formerly code-named Vienna, is the successor to LCS 2003, which was released about a year ago.

Beyond setting a release date, Microsoft is preparing new directions for the product. It is working to connect LCS 2005 with the leading IM networks, specifically AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger. Microsoft expects to begin testing the integration by the end of the year and to make it available as an additional license early next year, Karlinsky said.

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Microsoft last week announced a new client, code-named Istanbul, that will incorporate VOIP (voice over IP) capabilities. Currently, LCS runs with the Windows Messenger 5.1 client. Istanbul is slated for availability in the first half of 2005.

The introduction of an enterprise edition of LCS also could lay the foundation for adoption among service providers and federation clearinghouses attempting to interconnect organizations on a wide scale, Karlinsky said.

While the standard edition supports as many as 15,000 active users per server, the enterprise edition can support as many as 20,000 per server. The enterprise version can be extended to 100,000 users by clustering five servers, Karlinsky said.

Karlinsky said that Microsoft expects in the next few months to make further announcements about hosting companies and clearinghouses installing LCS 2005.

The enterprise edition also requires a full SQL Server database, while the standard version includes a lightweight, embedded version of SQL Server.

LCS 2005 will be made available through retail and volume licensing channels, and evaluation versions will be available in late November 2004.

Volume pricing for LCS 2005 starts at $750 per server for the standard edition and $3,000 per server for the enterprise edition, Karlinsky said.

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