Microsoft Greenwich: Server or Service?

Microsoft aims to make the base Greenwich services part of the Windows "platform."

While Microsofts real-time communications server, code-named Greenwich, will follow by several months Microsofts delivery of its base Windows .Net Server 2003 platform, the software giants ultimate goal is to make the base Greenwich services part of the Windows "platform."

Exactly how Microsoft will do this is unclear. Bill Veghte, corporate vice president in charge of Windows Server, said that the Redmond, Wash., software firm would likely make Greenwich code available to the companys Select volume licensing customers via the regularly updated Select CD.

That way, users who want real-time communications will be able to "layer" those services on top of Windows .Net Server.

To date, Microsoft has offered next-to-no information on Greenwich. At the companys .Net Briefing day in July, company execs did a quick Greenwich demo. But the company has offered no feature list, pricing information or timetable for Greenwich.

Sources recommend thinking of Greenwich as an SIP collaboration server. SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is an IETF standard for real-time communications. Windows XP supports SIP calling functions, and Windows Messenger and Passports directory and registration services are SIP-based, as well.

In addition to the basic SIP communications mechanisms, Microsoft will offer a number of Greenwich applications, such as corporate instant messaging and archiving, and, over time, conferencing functionality that Microsoft currently delivers in its Exchange Conferencing Server product, company executives acknowledged.

Greenwich also will include support for "presence," or the ability to determine automatically the state and location of a person or an entity.

Jim Allchin, group vice president for platforms at Microsoft, confirmed yesterday that Greenwich was "in beta with one large customer right now. The key concept is to have a presence-based message system that can work within or on your Intranet, using industry and widely adopted standards like for presence and to be able to surface that presence information and message flowing capabilities to clients.

"Youll also be able to do things like log messages, so if youre in a financial or critical situation where you need to know all the messages that are flowing you can track everything thats happening. You can expect a much wider beta going forward and the product released sometime next year," he said.

Asked whether the features from Exchange Conferencing Server would be incorporated into Greenwich, Allchin said not initially, but eventually. "Were just trying to get the first Greenwich product out for now. There are a lot of interoperability issues to be dealt with and we need to make everything seamless for customers," he said.

Sources close to Microsoft say version one of Greenwich is currently slated to ship in mid-2003.

Mary Jo Foley is editor of Microsoft Watch. Click here to get your 14-day free trial of Microsoft Watch.