Why the enterprise is ready for instant messaging

Antepo, Inc. –

In the 1990s, Internet entrepreneurs liked to talk about how "context" rather than "content" was the fundamental difference between online communities and traditional print magazines. While the Web delivered on its promise to deliver ubiquitous content, optimize transactions and transform commerce, it never really lent any sense of context to users' online experience.

This is because the Web was never designed as a real-time medium.

Today, most Web-based applications and enterprise middleware systems are invocation-based and thus follow a synchronous request-response paradigm. Typically, a browser requests a particular service from a server by either sending a request message or performing a remote method invocation and then receives a reply in return.

The growth of presence

Instant messaging (IM) provides the missing real-time component. Because it is based on the notion of "presence," it provides a natural framework for decoupled and asynchronous many-to-many flows between content subscribers and publishers. The first application of this publish-subscribe architecture is the well-known "buddy list," which allows users to subscribe to another person's state in order to be notified whenever such state is published.

Presence improves users' ability to communicate and interact, tying together applications that previously lived in isolation. Presence is the dynamic extension of identity; it describes one or many states of an identity, exposing users' ability, means and overall willingness to engage in a transaction. Typically, a presence engine will store and manage the connection status of users, their device and their capabilities.

It's easy to envision how businesses might benefit from presence.

Presence in process

There are two sure ways to increase productivity: do more things in the same amount of time, or do the same number of things in less time. The secret to improving either is to find and eliminate the embedded (mostly avoidable) delays in business processes. This is where presence can make an enormous difference.

Far too often, the delays in business processes result not so much from missing information, but from an inability to locate and briefly interact with an individual who has the necessary information (or authority) to put that process in motion again. Presence, the ability to see someone's availability, and the ability to spontaneously communicate with a person is a powerful tool for addressing this common business challenge.

Weaving presence into the fabric of business processes has a tremendous potential to reduce wasted time. The bottom line impact: productivity improves, costs go down, customer responsiveness increases, and competitive advantage results.

Presence on the horizon

2005 is a turning point as presence is coming to the enterprise in a new way.

Having identified and controlled the use of consumer IM in their organization, companies large and small are now tackling the first phase of enterprise IM deployments.

With enterprise IM, presence is coming behind the enterprise's firewall for the first time. Just as employees' identities and the company's data are managed inside, presence is now being generated and extended within the corporate premises and acts like a next-generation, intelligent dial-tone. Within an organization, presence can indicate real-time status changes for people and critical business processes. On a global scale, presence can indicate critical status changes across a company's ecosystem of partners, suppliers, and customers.

Just as the second half of the 1990s was spent Web-enabling corporate America, the second half of this decade will be spent re-engineering business processes around presence. In this evolution, office collaboration is just one angle. Even more significant is the fundamental shift from the request-response paradigm of Web services to an era where user and application nodes subscribe once to events and state changes and get notified in real time.

In 5-10 years, a publish/subscribe-based state engine infrastructure will be a required element of any enterprise or service provider IT topology. The ability to capture, aggregate and distribute state information will be as essential as storing data or identity.

Presence and IM deployments today should not be positioned or envisioned within the same prism as e-mail or other communication applications. Presence is not a communication application, rather it is an integral thread in the operating fabric of businesses large and small.

The ideas expressed in this article are solely those of the vendor and its client, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ITworld.com.

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