RealTime IT News

AOL Adds Partners to 'Buddy List'

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- AOL Wednesday padded its Instant Messaging buddy list with its latest partner, Akonix Systems.

The alliance means San Diego-based Akonix becomes an AIM Certified Partner. For its part, AOL says it will certify Akonix L7 Enterprise to bring management and compliance features to AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) traffic within enterprises. The platform includes a dynamic protocol update service for changing IM signatures, providing notification and optional automatic updates for new versions of the AIM service and other popular IM protocols without service disruption.

"Akonix really brings management and security of multi-networked companies," AOL Desktop Messaging senior vice president and general manager Ed Fish told internetnews.com. "Certification lets us to ensure that AIM traffic traveling through corporations is managed in a way that is fully compatible and keeps users safe and secure."

Fish made the announcement as part of his keynote at the Instant Messaging Planet Fall 2003 Conference & Expo here. The show is produced by Jupitermedia , parent company of this Web site.

Ironically, Akonix Wednesday also inked a deal with AOL rival Microsoft to help out with the MSN Instant Messaging client.

The stakes are very high at this show as AOL, Microsoft and other IM heavyweights like Yahoo! and now Sun Microsystems are coming to the table ready to debate real-world business and technical topics. The companies have really put on the heat of late including squawkings over patents and compatibilities between platforms. Recent reports by J.D. Power and Associates suggest technologies like instant messaging are even cutting into residential long-distance calling's dominance as a communications medium.

Launched in 2002, AOL's Enterprise AIM service is an offshoot of its free consumer product. The Enterprise version includes stricter controls including AIM Enterprise Gateway, Private Domain Service and Federated Authentication Service.

Fish said AOL prides its heritage in Instant Messaging on the fact that it has never had a service outage in its six-year history; a blatant stick in the eye to Microsoft, which has had its history of IM problems.

"If you run a service that processes some 2 billion messages a day with more than two million users per day in a dynamically changing environment, it becomes a virtual nightmare."

Instant Messaging in general has instantly become a sizzling hot market. With nearly 65 million workers already using instant messaging, that number is expected to grow to 350 million by 2005, according to analyst firm IDC.

The technology has become so widespread that it's even attracted the attention of federal communications authorities and Wall Street regulators.

A lot of the IM companies are coming out with an encryption products have a desktop to desktop model where the message is stored on the desktop. That is a danger for reporting because it could hinder open reporting standards. We're going to need a model that goes from server to server.

AOL says it is already addressing the problem in two ways, by building a better product and by helping work with the standards boards.

"We are very active in standards bodies because we are the leader in this industry and we are taking the lead role." Fish said. "That means we have to understand processes and where to take them. We are a member of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and we work with ITEF on standardization. That is a hard path and it takes time because there are several aspects to address.

AOL has taken another approach, which has put it on the fast track and that is to drum up support by partnering with other companies directly.

"This summer we did that with AIM and ICQ by working with SameTime and Apple and our most recent announcement with Reuters ," Fish said. "We're trying to do both and it is faster to work with partners to get this to work."

Back in September, AOL and Reuters said an upcoming version of the Reuters Messaging client will allow Reuters Messaging users to directly access and communicate with colleagues and customers that use the AOL, AIM and ICQ services. In addition, AOL instant messaging users will have the ability to add Reuters Messaging users to their AOL Buddy List feature. In a related announcement, Reuters said it has tapped Waltham, Mass.-based IMlogic to provide technology to enable access between Reuters Messaging and AOL's AIM services.

For Akonix, the company says its L7 enterprise platform features addresses security threats and add advanced corporate messaging capabilities to enhance the usability of consumer IM in corporate networks. Integrated compliance features allow Akonix customers to satisfy regulatory and corporate requirements in the Financial Services, Energy, Healthcare, Government and Telecommunications industry segments.

"We see four phases of enterprise IM adoption," Akonix Systems CEO Peter Shaw told internetnews.com. "The first two phases can be characterized as ad hoc adoption and limited deployment of partial enterprise solutions focused on logging for compliance for some select market segments. What we hear from large enterprise customers today is that they need a real-time communications management platform that provides security, control and identity management with the high-availability and scalability required to safely support enterprise IM use. They are also looking for a solution that can be easily extended to address future requirements, including managing the use of other real-time technologies and to presence-enable existing enterprise applications to improve business productivity and communications."