Lotus touts instant messaging

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – In the new world order of instant messaging (IM), the once revered buddy list of contacts will soon be replaced by presence awareness, or so was the image IBM Corp. tried to convey as the company announced upgrades to Lotus Sametime 3 during a press conference here Tuesday.

Big Blue also released Lotus Notes and Domino 6; QuickPlace 3, a Web tool for team collaboration; Lotus Web Conferencing, a hosted pay-per-month service; and Learning Space, an expansion of e-learning and virtual classroom capabilities.

But it was Sametime 3 that IBM was touting the heaviest. With the new 3 IM gateway, companies are now able to exchange instant messages between the diverse instant messaging community, the company said. There is one catch: this can only be accomplished so long as all users are using the recently approved session initiation protocol (SIP) for IM called SIP for instant messaging and presence leveraging extensions (SIMPLE). Both IBM and Microsoft are shipping SIMPLE-based software, and despite the fact that the IETF approved the standard back in January, not all vendors – including AOL – will likely enter the fray to offer products with the standard.

As organizations continue to find ways to trim excess in their overhead costs, IBM used itself as a case study to demonstrate its cost savings by using IM internally. Based on approximately 300,000 employees using the Sametime Web conferencing/IM software, it was able to save US$4 million per month in travel expenses, adding it will save US$50 million this year alone.

The company said the idea of IM was being discussed internally some five years ago, but now it is technology that has moved beyond the early-adoption cycle.

“It’s no longer a novel technology to people. The main shift that we’re seeing is from a buddy list. The real value of IM isn’t the messaging, it’s the presence awareness. That will fuel how we will work together and with other people,” said Jeremy Dies, Lotus advanced collaboration software in Cambridge.

Financial services firm J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is currently using Sametime 2.5 and has beta tested version 3. With 15,000 employees in New York alone, the company said the biggest challenge was deploying the software. It has used Sametime to conduct virtual meetings and instant messaging. While the company doesn’t expect to fully migrate until late next year, there is incentive to upgrade based on what the new clustering feature could offer.

“With clustering, you should have a sign that the server is down and will bring you back up over to another server,” said Philip Kaplan, vice-president at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in New York.

But whom is the software really targeted at? According to Lotus, there are SMBs who will find savings, but when pressed, Dies admitted that “returns” would be far more significant the larger the enterprise.

IBM can be found at http://www.ibm.com.