RealTime IT News

Yahoo Extends IM to the Enterprise

The link between enterprise instant messaging (IM) and public IM just got a lot stronger.

Yahoo Inc. has introduced Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition, a business-strength product that the company says provides security, administrative control and integration with several portal software and directory service products. The new product also provides interoperability within Yahoo's network of tens of millions of consumer IM users.

Besides bringing its IM to the enterprise, Yahoo's move is significant to the company's bottom line -- it has been looking for ways to bring in additional revenues as the advertising market continues to be sluggish.

Although enterprise IM (EIM) vendors are targeting businesses, organizations and governments with their wares, it's clear that those groups are relying primarily on the public IM networks. IDC last August said nearly 65 million workers are already using public IM -- that number is expected to grow to 255 million by 2005.

One of the biggest objections that IT department heads have had about introducing public IM into the enterprise is the associated security risks that come with those networks. Yahoo's new enterprise product has SSL-based encryption so that messages cannot be read by people other than the intended recipient. It also lets administrators block other IM clients and force the use of virus protection software for file transfers -- the latter being an especially big concern for IT admins. The encryption works for messages that pass between Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition clients -- even if one of the users is outside of the company.

Also, the Yahoo enterprise IM product authenticates users against an enterprise's corporate directory. "You want to know that when you receive a message that the person sending it is who they say they are," said Ken Hickman, director of product strategy for Yahoo's Enterprise Solutions division, in an interview. The system uses e-mail addresses as screen names as the identity verification mechanism.

Speaking of controls, Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition also directly ties into a corporate directory to allow administrators to centrally manage, enable and disable users and their screen names -- especially if they leave the company. Administrators can also enable and/or disable such client functions as file transfer and chat.

The new service gives enterprises interoperability with the Yahoo's public IM network of more than 20 million users (Media Metrix Inc, August 2002). Presence is also supported throughout the Yahoo public IM network by the showing of a person's corporate e-mail address. An employee is also able to link his or her corporate screen name to a personal Yahoo screen names, to both maintain pre-existing contact lists and to allow for remote access.

Yahoo Messenger Enterprise Edition also integrates with portal and business platforms from BEA Systems, Oracle, and TIBCO Software; it also ties into any LDAP-compliant directory, such as those from Novell eDirectory, the directory technology in Oracle9i Application Server, and Sun Microsystems' SunONE Directory Server. The product integrates with security, logging and auditing products from VeriSign, IMlogic and FaceTime Communications.

The new enterprise IM software retains the functionality, and the familiar look and feel of the consumer Yahoo Messenger product, company officials said. But IT admins can customize the client's buttons, tabs, links, text and icons used on the client user interface from one central configuration tool.

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