Microsoft on Wednesday will introduce a service for corporate customers that will allow users to extend and manage their MSN Messenger instant messaging capabilities across the firewall and help Microsoft play catch-up with rivals in the instant messaging market.\n\nMicrosoft\u00a0on Wednesday will introduce a service for corporate customers that will allow users to extend and manage their MSN Messenger instant messaging capabilities across the firewall and help Microsoft play catch-up with rivals in the instant messaging market.MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises, which is expected to ship before April 1, 2003, will offer auditing, logging and management features required by corporations that are increasingly looking to use IM as a communications tool.The service will offer a namespace that integrates Passport identifications and corporate IDs stored in Active Directory to facilitate centralized IT user administration.\u00a0 Today, Passport identifications are managed individually.Additionally, Microsoft will offer corporations the chance to purchase a unique namespace on the MSN service, which would allow a company to use its own name for its instant messaging identity. For instance, Network World could buy the namespace\u00a0"@ network world\u201d.The service is a precursor to the sort of enterprise instant messaging features Microsoft plans to introduce with its real-time communications server for instant messaging, voice and video code-named Greenwich, which is expected to ship in the middle of next year.Connect for Enterprises will be offered on a yearly subscription basis starting at $24 per user with volume discounts down to $12. The subscription includes the licensing, connectivity, namespace and ID control, and premier support.\u201cWe are providing the enterprise with a variety of management tools to use instant messaging with external customers,\u201d says Larry Grothaus, lead product manager for MSN.As part of the service, users will have to deploy a third-party gateway from IMLogic or FaceTime Communications for managing IM traffic. Microsoft has asked those vendors to integrate the Passport application-programming interface into their products so that Active Directory can be linked with the Passport service. The gateway will listen for the MSNMP instant messaging protocol and log those conversations. Users will have to run Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000 to support the logging and auditing features.Microsoft is reacting to the intense popularity of instant messaging and its grass roots explosion in corporations, where network executives are scrambling to manage its use.Instant messaging is used either sanctioned or unsanctioned in 84% of companies with that number expected to climb to 93% in 12 months, according to a September survey of 196 respondents by Osterman Research. That same survey showed that 60% of company\u2019s use AOL Instant Messenger, while 50% use MSN Messenger and 45% Yahoo Messenger.\u00a0AOL last week\u00a0offered its own AIM Enterprise Gateway\u00a0for companies looking to manage its IM service. In October, Yahoo\u00a0said it also would offer\u00a0enterprise support\u00a0for its IM service.All of the providers are looking for ways to generate revenue from their IM services, which are free and have taken off like wildfire.\u201cI see this as mainly a reaction to AOL,\u201d says David Ferris, president of Ferris Research. \u201cBusinesses want to use IM to communicate with customers and right now they are doing that with AOL and MSN. Corporations need to control that interaction.\u201d Microsoft said its offering trumps AOL\u2019s in a number of places.\u201cWe have experience with enterprise customers and consumers, and we have a support infrastructure in place for enterprises,\u201d says Peter Ollodart, director of MSN strategic partnerships for Microsoft. \u201cAnd we have Greenwich, which is built for the enterprise.\u201dWhile Connect for Enterprises may define Microsoft\u2019s battle with AOL, Greenwich is Microsoft\u2019s attempt to play catch-up in the enterprise instant messaging market to chief rival IBM\/Lotus Sametime, whose platform is used by 70% of corporations that have standardized on a product, according to Osterman Research.Microsoft will integrate a version 2 of Connect for Enterprises with Greenwich, which will run atop the forthcoming Windows.Net Server 2003, late next year to provide management and security features for IM.Microsoft officials say Connect for Enterprises version 2 will ship after Greenwich and have a translation engine that works between MSN and the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) supported in Greenwich that will allow any SIP client to talk to anyone on an MSN buddy list. The Windows Messenger client that ships with Windows XP supports SIP.\n\nSIP\u00a0is a signaling protocol for use with applications that support voice and instant messaging.