Lotus, AOL Working on IM Client Integration

Vendors look to enhance interoperability between corporate and consumer instant messaging systems.

IBMs Lotus Software division and America Online Inc. announced Monday an agreement to conduct pilot testing of more extensive interoperability between the companies respective instant messaging clients.

Lotuss Sametime IM client and AOLs AOL Instant Messenger, known as AIM, can communicate with each other today, with Sametime users able to access their AIM Buddy List features through a tab on the Sametime contact list.

The pilot testing would integrate Sametime with the AIM Enterprise Gateway and the full suite of Enterprise AIM Services, allowing Sametime enterprise customers who use the AIM Enterprise Gateway to manage control of AIM usage in their organizations. Sametime is Lotus secure IM and online meetings platform designed for enterprise customers. AIM is AOLs consumer IM service and handles more than 1.5 billion instant messages per day, though the pilot will focus on the enterprise capabilities added to AIM in November.

In August of 2001, Lotus, of Cambridge, Mass., and AOL, of Dulles, Va., announced plans to test server-to-server interoperability between Sametime and AIM using Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging (SIMPLE), an emerging instant messaging standard. The testing on that was completed by early last year with unnamed "security issues" and "business issues" identified but no plans made to resolve them, according to an AOL spokeswoman at the time.

AOL then introduced Enterprise AIM Services in November, the centerpiece of which was AIM Enterprise Gateway, the piece that the latest round of interoperability testing will focus on. AIM Enterprise Gateway is a proxy between users inside and outside a companys firewall that allows enterprises to determine control of access, routing and permissions. It also provides logging, auditing and usage reporting with embedded technology from FaceTime Communications Inc.

No official start date for the pilot has been set yet, but the testing should commence "within a few months," according to a Lotus spokeswoman.

Any integration between Sametime and AOL Enterprise AIM Services would require Sametime customers to license Enterprise AIM Services, according to Lotus officials. The integration would be most useful to Sametime users who exchange IMs with AIM users from outside their corporate firewall, officials said.

The companies have no immediate plans to renew their work on server-to-server IM interoperability and the new pilot is unrelated to that project. However, that pilot did lead to Lotus offering SIMPLE support in the Sametime 3 IM Gateway.