Sun launching IM server

Sun Microsystems Inc. next month will release an instant messaging server that will become the foundation component of the company’s real-time collaborative business platform.

With Sun One Instant Messaging 6.0, Sun joins rivals IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. in making a serious run at the corporate instant messaging market, which is quickly realizing that consumer-based instant messaging use in the enterprise is a security hole open to viruses and malicious code.

Sun had previously offered instant-messaging capabilities as part of an add-on to its Sun One Portal Server, but that product -- Instant Collaboration Pack -- is being replaced by the stand-alone Instant Messaging 6.0 server.

Sun and Microsoft are rushing to join IBM/Lotus in providing enterprise-class instant messaging servers and clients that incorporate security, auditing, logging and directory integration. Consumer services such as AOL and Yahoo also are trying to service the enterprise market along with smaller vendors such as FaceTime Communications Inc., IMLogic Inc. and WiredRed Software Corp.

IBM/Lotus Instant Messaging has been shipping for more than four years. Microsoft last month released the first beta version of its instant-messaging server code-named Greenwich, which is slated to ship this fall. Novell, which has offered instant-messaging capabilities for three years, will release its new GroupWise Messenger 6.5 this month.

"I was impressed with some of the nice capabilities that Sun has offered," Osterman Research Inc. President Michael Osterman says. He cited auditing, logging, directory integration as key features for enterprise customers, but also mentioned polling and conferencing features, as well as, calendar integration. The server also supports chat, file transfers, message encryption and third-party virus and Spam filters. Osterman says Sun will be challenged to sell its instant messaging capabilities over its rivals, specifically IBM/Lotus and Microsoft both of which have a huge installed base of e-mail users.

Sun’s Instant Messaging 6.0 can be run as a standalone server or as a part of the Sun One Collaborative Business Platform, which Sun will unveil this week. The platform is a combination of Sun One Portal Server, Messaging Server, Calendar Server, Identity Server, Directory Server, IM and Sun Professional Services.

When Instant Messaging 6.0 is run as part of that platform, users have access to presence information embedded within portal applications, a searchable archive to store instant messaging messages and discussion threads and calendar alerts that use instant messaging to flag users to impending entries on their personal calendars.

Sun’s instant-messaging server does not support the Session Initiation Protocol or SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE). Both those protocols are being touted for integration of disparate instant-messaging systems and are supported by IBM/Lotus and Microsoft.

"We see SIP and SIMPLE as key protocols and we will be adding them before the end of the year," says Patrick Dorsey, group manager for Sun One communications products.

Sun will offer two clients for its instant messaging server, its Sun One Instant Messenger and a Java applet that can be loaded into a browser. The server runs on Sun Solaris 2.6 and 8, and Microsoft Windows NT. A Linux version is expected before year-end. Pricing for Sun One Instant Messaging 6.0 starts at US$30 per user.

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