Reuters Extends Enterprise Instant Messaging

Vendors look to third-party IM management software to link disparate offerings.

Connectivity between disparate enterprise instant messaging software got another boost this week when Reuters PLC and IBM announced that they will begin testing secure access between their respective IM offerings, Reuters Messaging and IBM Lotus Instant Messaging.

Reuters earlier this month said it intends to do similar testing with America Online Inc.s AOL Instant Messenger service. The company plans to eventually offer IM connectivity with Microsoft Corp.s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Inc.s Yahoo Messenger as well, according to Reuters spokesman Kyle Arteaga.

"MSN Messenger is popular [among financial services firms] in Europe. Yahoo Messenger is popular in Asia. Our goal is to provide connectivity to all the networks," said Arteaga, in New York.

By the first quarter of next year, Reuters will release a new version of its IM client that will enable connectivity with other IM vendors networks as well as support structured text messaging—the ability to send forms and graphs in IM—and group messaging. It will be available to all Reuters Messaging users, officials said.

The company is not alone in providing IM interconnectivity as Microsoft is expected to announce on Tuesday that its MSN Messenger service will support a third-party connectivity layer that similarly lets users of its IM service communicate with IM clients from other vendors, sources said. Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash., declined to comment.

Reuters Messaging is built on Microsofts Greenwich enterprise instant messaging technology, which Microsoft now markets as Live Communication Server.

Third-party IM management vendors like IMLogic Inc. and FaceTime Communications Inc. are expected to play a major role in providing this connectivity between IM clients from different vendors. Officials from IMLogic and FaceTime, as well as the IM vendors, declined to comment on what role they would play.

Arteaga said that while running multiple IM clients may be standard practice in the consumer world, enterprises, in this case financial trading desks, want to keep their desktops less cluttered. Of particular interest to Reuters is being able to connect large financial services firms that use its service with small portfolio management and hedge fund companies with little IT overhead.

"Were talking about a totally different class of customer, but these are the people who provide liquidity," Arteaga said.

Both Lotus Instant Messaging and Reuters IM use the Session Initiation Protocol. Arteaga and Lotus officials said customers will be able to use the Lotus IM server connected to Reuters IM, using Lotus SIP Gateway. Users of consumer IM clients would have this capability too, but will be encouraged only to migrate their other IM clients buddy list to Reuters IM because of security, authentication and regulatory compliance issues, Arteaga said.

Francis deSouza, president and CEO of IMLogic, said the connectivity Reuters IM is planning was a "good start" toward enterprise IM interoperability.

"Its definitely coming," said deSouza, in Lincoln, Mass. "This is the start of good things to come. I think 2004 will usher in the next stage of IM."

deSouza said there are still business model issues to work out such as who pays for network traffic between two IM services, similar to who pays for network traffic between customers using two different telephone service providers.

"Were starting to see it solved in the enterprise market," he said, though he declined to comment on any specific role IMLogic would play in providing that connectivity beyond its existing IM monitoring, logging and archiving technologies.