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Microsoft to build secure corporate IM infrastructure
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Microsoft Corp will drive instant messaging (IM) as an enterprise-class collaboration platform using security features planned for its next server operating system and e-mail server,Gavin Clarke writes
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft plans features for use with Windows .NET Server 2003 and the next version of Exchange, codenamed Titanium, that make rich IM-based collaboration possible for users separated by a corporate firewall the company said.
Microsoft, speaking during its Exchange Conference 2002 (MEC) in Anaheim, California, is responding to an explosive growth in IM, currently used by 200 million users and expected to reach 500 million users by 2006.
Microsoft believes IM has huge potential in corporate environments when combined with applications such as white-boarding and graphics. IM can speed communication and open the way for more ad-hoc discussion between a company's employees.
The company feels, though, that security is a critical missing ingredient in today's IM offerings meaning users separated by a firewall cannot easily or securely communicate. Secure communication must be performed through traditional mediums, instead, such as e-mail.
Bob O'Brian, group product manager for Windows .NET Server, told ComputerWire: "There will be an array of new capabilities that enable more and richer applications. But you can't get there without the infrastructure... you can't carry on a discussion on both sides of the firewall without the secure infrastructure.
"We will deliver the infrastructure that enables these kinds of applications," O'Brian said. He added the first example will be in Titanium with Microsoft's infrastructure using encryption and secure protocols. He did not provide further details but is believed to be referring to the company's planned real-time collaboration server Greenwich.
O'Brian said the security infrastructure would likely ship separately to Titanium and Windows .NET Server 2003 - the latter expected at the end of this year. O'Brian said this would be detailed in December, after a design review. He said customers should expect "some interesting packages".
Separately, .NET enterprise server group product manager Jim Bernardo outlined features in Titanium designed to increase collaboration and remote working. These features include Messaging Application Program Interface (MAPI) for HTTP that Bernardo said provides the degree of fidelity for e-mail and calendar across HTTP that is normally associated with connection through a virtual private network (VPN). Bernardo said MAPI for HTTP meant organizations can side-step the need for a costly VPN.