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Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
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Brian Riggs | March 26, 2008 |

 
   

Bruce Morse on IM Interoperability

Bruce Morse on IM Interoperability I read with interest about the Swift-Galvin handshake to test interoperability between Microsoft and IBM's instant messaging unified communications software at VoiceCon Fall in November. It's a topic I've droned on a bit about before and am glad to see others are taking it seriously as well. Curiously enough, just before VoiceCon, IBM's Bruce Morse touched on the topic of federation between currently non-interoperable corporate IM platforms, in a conference call to industry analysts like myself. Here's what he said:

I read with interest about the Swift-Galvin handshake to test interoperability between Microsoft and IBM's instant messaging unified communications software at VoiceCon Fall in November. It's a topic I've droned on a bit about before and am glad to see others are taking it seriously as well. Curiously enough, just before VoiceCon, IBM's Bruce Morse touched on the topic of federation between currently non-interoperable corporate IM platforms, in a conference call to industry analysts like myself. Here's what he said:

I read with interest about the Swift-Galvin handshake to test interoperability between Microsoft and IBM's instant messaging unified communications software at VoiceCon Fall in November. It's a topic I've droned on a bit about before and am glad to see others are taking it seriously as well. Curiously enough, just before VoiceCon, IBM's Bruce Morse touched on the topic of federation between currently non-interoperable corporate IM platforms, in a conference call to industry analysts like myself. Here's what he said:

Technically this is not a hard thing. This is just a matter of the vendors getting together and building out the SIP standard to be more specific about how messages get passed and making sure vendors build to the ratified standard [rather] than implementing proprietary extensions. So it's not a technical issue. It will come down to a couple industry leaders building out a proposal [for corporate IM interoperability and] promoting it through the standards body (i.e., the IETF). It could become bogged down if we get into holy wars. If different vendors have different views it could get bogged down in the system. But we're trying to call on the other players in the industry to say let's work together to get this done.

I will tell you, this has become a very topical area when I meet with customers. They are frustrated by all of us in the industry for not having pushed more aggressively on this. I think pressure from customers on all of the vendors is going to accelerate some of this. So I'll go out on a limb and say I'm cautiously optimistic that this problem will be resolved in the next 18 to 24 months.

Frankly, I'm not entirely on board with Bruce's "let's get this pushed through the standards bodies" approach to IM interoperability. I mean, how many standards have we seen make their painfully slow way to ratification only to have vendors implement them with differences slight enough to claim compliance without actually delivering interoperability? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it was just this sort of situation after the IEEE's official okey-dokey of the 802.11 spec that led in the late 1990s to the birth of the WiFi Alliance, an independent organization with the (if you ask me) rather pathetic mission of certifying that wireless devices claiming compliance to the standard could actually work with each other. It's seems like deja vu all over again with SIP, except there is no equivalent watchdog organization to stick its little stamps on interoperable products. I'm not suggesting that the standards organizations should be bypassed. I'm just saying this is not necessarily the quickest way of getting things done.

But I was glad to hear Bruce admit IBM Lotus Sametime customers are frustrated. Hopefully Microsoft customers are as well. And I wish the same frustration on customers of Cisco, Avaya, Nortel, Alcatel, Ericsson, 3Com, and others as they implement theoretically standards-based unified communications solutions that don't in fact interoperate with one another at any meaningful level. Ideally this frustration will result in customers being unwilling to invest in unified communications until vendors end their turf wars and work together on this issue for a change.





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