The benefits of interoperability

* Better interoperability key toward advancing the use of IM in the workplace

MSN Hotmail last week announced that through an agreement with Yahoo, users of both consumer-oriented e-mail systems will now be able to share e-mail with one another.

MSN Hotmail last week announced that through an agreement with Yahoo, users of both consumer-oriented e-mail systems will now be able to share e-mail with one another.

This follows the announcement in late December by Microsoft, IBM and Novell that users of Exchange, Notes and GroupWise will – for the first time – be able to trade e-mail with another.

Well, not really.

Of course, SMTP e-mail is completely interoperable and has been for years. That, however, is not the case with instant messaging (IM). Although there are standards in the IM world, what interoperability there is today is largely the result of the federation of competing networks.

For example, users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) can communicate, through the AOL Enterprise Federation Program, with users of Parlano, MessageLabs Omnipod, Antepo, Jabber and others. Lotus Sametime users can now communicate with users of AIM and Google Talk and will soon be able to connect with Yahoo Messenger. Microsoft’s Windows Messenger and Yahoo’s Messenger users are now federated with one another.

Standards are also advancing with products that supports Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIP/SIMPLE) and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) making significant advances toward interoperability, including products from vendors like Jabber, Coversant, IBM, Google and others.

I believe that the lack of completely transparent IM interoperability has been one of the key factors that have held back more widespread use of IM in the workplace. Unlike with e-mail, IT and line-of-business decision makers that want to use IM in their organizations must also consider interoperability with existing systems, with those of business partners and others as part of the mix in choosing from among competing offerings.

That’s a decision that eventually won’t have to be made, since interoperability – either through standards or federation (or a mix of both) – will eventually become the norm, a key toward advancing the use of IM in the workplace.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Now read: Getting grounded in IoT