Next Stop, “Greenwich”: Enterprise IM Takes Shape with Platform Roadmap

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 8, 2002 — There’s a quiet revolution coming in how we work together and communicate with each other: real-time communication over the Web. Whether via instant messaging (IM), video conferencing, or online collaboration applications, today’s workforce is communicating on the Web in myriad ways. These tools are making it that much easier for information workers to find the information they need, when they need it.



Cliff Reeves, vice president of marketing, Windows.NET Server Product Management Group

To support this new wave of Web-enabled communication, Microsoft has developed
“Greenwich”
— the codename for a Windows-based technology that brings secure and manageable real-time communication to the enterprise.
“Greenwich”
is designed to provide a central means to manage all real-time communications within a business. Cliff Reeves, vice president of marketing for Microsoft’s Windows .NET Server Product Management Group, spoke to PressPass about
“Greenwich”
and how it can make real-time communication more effective for enterprise businesses.

PressPass: Exactly what are


real-time communications


and why are they so important to enterprise businesses?

Reeves: It’s a variety of Web-based means of communication — Instant messaging, video conferencing, and voice communication. Basically, it’s any means of doing business in real time. Today, businesses need these communication technologies to run their businesses effectively.

PressPass: Talk a bit about the evolution of real-time communications.

Reeves: Microsoft released the first enterprise instant messaging product as part of Exchange 2000. We were excited by customer feedback, which told us that enterprise instant messaging is an important scenario for Microsoft customers, because it helps information workers get their jobs done more effectively. Two key points came from that feedback: first, make the platform extensible, and also make it usable in more than just the core application. So, we looked at the underlying communications protocol, and moved away from one used only by Exchange instant messaging, toward an industry standard protocol called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP is approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which shows it already is a communications industry standard. It provides us with a base for presence, as well as the ability to support API’s and all of the possible real-time content: text, speech, files, video.

We were also very excited about customer adoption of Windows Messenger in Windows XP. So as we continued to develop capabilities in
“Greenwich,”
we decided to implement the
“Greenwich”
platform directly on the Windows platform. We wanted to ensure
“Greenwich”
could be exploited as widely as possible. We expect to see integration with telephony applications, line of business applications, information worker productivity applications, conferencing applications and more. We wanted
“Greenwich”
services to be secure and manageable from the get- go, and we felt this would be most effectively done if the
“Greenwich”
technology was tightly integrated with the Windows server family.

PressPass: So how does


Greenwich


help companies take advantage of real-time communication?

Reeves: Customers and partners have told us to think broadly about real-time services. They say that simply delivering secure IM, while meeting an immediate need, is not enough. Customers are looking for both a solution and a platform, making capability a core part of an enterprise’s communications infrastructure. We see “Greenwich” as the best of both worlds: a secure, manageable enterprise IM solution out of the box; and also as an extensible, standards-based real-time communications platform. Our customers are demanding both the solution and the platform.

“Greenwich”
is a technology in the Windows Server family that will enable RTC in an enterprise.
“Greenwich”
will bring enterprise-wide instant messaging, with four additional key elements: security, manageability, standards-based architecture, and extensibility, allowing developers and integrators to build on top of the
“Greenwich”
capabilities. Many other solutions available today have pieces of those four areas. But very few bring all four as
“Greenwich”
does, in a Windows format the user knows and likes.

Although we’re enthusiastic about specific opportunities that enable workers to communicate and collaborate in real time, Microsoft isn’t trying to be the entire communications and collaboration solution.
“Greenwich”
can provide a robust communications base, plus API’s and integration with services like security, identity and systems management that others can rely on.

That doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t provide solutions. We expect Microsoft products like Office, or Great Plains Business Solutions to be a major solutions provider as they integrate real time services into their product line. But we want a fertile ground for partnership with ISVs and Systems integrators who’ll provide their own solutions.

PressPass: What sort of benefits will


Greenwich


offer to the corporate user?

Reeves: Let me illustrate: Today, an information worker arriving at new company is given a company e-mail address, a company phone number, and so on. However, if they want to use instant messaging, they usually have to use one of the free public IM services, compromising security and company identity.
“Greenwich”
makes the instant messaging solution as much a part of the company identity as the enterprise phone or enterprise e-mail.

Over time, the user also might be excited to see the way their enterprise communication system is linked to the instant messaging system. For example, tech support might give you alerts about storage service status over the instant messaging system. We see “Greenwich” as a complete enterprise solution, with an increasing amount of enterprise information delivered across this channel.

PressPass: What does that mean to IS managers who have to administer the system?

Reeves: IT managers want platform technology delivered at the system level and integrated well with the operating system. They have problems with most instant messaging solutions available today — instant messaging is increasingly a business-critical application for many workers, but the systems most widely in use today are not integrated into enterprise systems in any way. We see increasing evidence of IT managers torn between the requirements of delivering the business value of IM, without compromising the integrity of enterprise networks.
“Greenwich”
allows IT managers to deploy an IM solution which is part of, and managed by the same tools, as the rest of their familiar Windows infrastructure.

One of the other great features of the
“Greenwich”
solution, for example, is its logging capability, which allows users to see instant messaging conversations they’ve had in the past. This can be very convenient for a lot of people. And in fact, there are some industry segments in which that is a regulatory requirement — financial services or medical services, for example, are required to keep records of written correspondence.

PressPass: How is the


Greenwich


project addressing security issues?

Reeves: The
“Greenwich”
solution integrates fully with Microsoft’s IT security management structure. Microsoft is committed to lead in end-to-end security with real-time communications. We are developing infrastructure technology that will add protection to unencrypted text traveling across the Internet; as well as provide standards support for technologies like SSL encryption, Digest and NTLM/Kerberos authentication.

PressPass: What led to the decision to make


Greenwich


technology compatible with industry standards such as SIP?

Reeves: We took some time to work out what the right real-time communication protocols were, and we believe SIP and its related protocol SIMPLE are the right way to deliver against our customers expectations. One of the important reasons is that the
“Greenwich”
solution will deliver more than just text-based communications. The SIP protocol provides excellent support for multi-modal communications. They can manage voice, video, application sharing, and more, so they are more than just protocols for text messaging sharing.

Another advantage is its focus on
“presence”
— the ability to see whether people are available to communicate with you or not, and vice versa. At the core of how real-time communications can change the way people work and use computers in their day-to-day life, presence is a very powerful function. I think information workers in the next two or three years will think their communication system is ineffective if they can’t tell whether their contacts are available to speak to them or not.

PressPass: And wouldn’t adherence to standards also make it easier to run other applications on the


Greenwich


platform?

Reeves: Absolutely. There are a wide variety of different functionalities and scenarios enabled by RTC capabilities. In that context, we want to make those functionalities as widely available as possible. The right place to deliver very fundamental SIP-based presence information is at the OS level, to make it available as wide across applications and systems as possible. In this area, building on a standards-based protocol is exactly what partners are looking for. Building
“Greenwich”
as a platform supports next-generation real-time communication broadly. It helps us, it helps our partners, it helps the industry. It’s the right way to deliver against industry requirements.

PressPass: What differentiates


Greenwich


from the other enterprise instant messaging packages on the market?

Reeves: There are four areas where we see our RTC solution as very strong. Number one is security, making sure the solution is something an enterprise can really rely on as a core part of its infrastructure. Second is manageability — from the point of view of an IT pro, is it something they will be comfortable managing. Number three is its standards-based capability, which is absolutely critical for building on an ecosystem. Our competitors use gateways. Gateways are a performance, compatibility and manageability issue for IT. Fourth is platform and extensibility, which is the ability, with a strong set of APIs, to allow developers to build on top of these capabilities. Most of the other solutions currently on the market have pieces of those four areas, but very few bring all four as
“Greenwich”
does, in a Windows format the user knows and likes.

Four areas where we already see strong interest from customers and developers in extending
“Greenwich”
capabilities are conferencing, line-of-business integration, information-worker productivity application integration, and telephony integration.
“Greenwich”
is designed to execute and unify all those functions. Let me take that a bit further. Because it’s a platform,
“Greenwich”
works across different networks. For example, today people in a company’s head office use one communications system, and when remotely dialing into the office, they use some different system. Because of its multi-modal functionality,
“Greenwich”
enables you to have instant messaging capabilities across a number of networks, because you don’t want to be on a different information system in each place you do work.

The Windows Messenger client is another important piece of the solution. We are excited about the customer response to Windows XP, which includes the SIP-based Windows Messenger client, which users find intuitive, whether sending text messages to friends or making calls from their PC to a phone.

PressPass: How do you anticipate that


Greenwich


will evolve in the future?

Reeves: Long-term, we’ll see capabilities such as those
“Greenwich”
will deliver becoming more pervasive. Anytime you’re doing a type of work where someone else you deal with regularly needs to be involved — such as a colleague, a vendor or your boss — you’ll be able to see their presence information and initiate contact.
“Greenwich”
will make communications as pervasive as possible.

We also consider line-of-business integration to be a vital point of evolution for
“Greenwich.”
For example, customer relationship management (CRM) and other systems increasingly rely on real-time communications systems to be their core information delivery mechanism. Enterprise systems regard instant messaging as not only the dominant and right way to deliver information.