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'Greenwich' Turns into RTC Server and Windows Server 2003 Add-on

Microsoft's "Greenwich" project for real-time communications raised questions about whether the technologies would end up as a new server product the company would charge for or as a free add-on for Windows Server 2003.

The answer is both.

Microsoft clarified its plans surrounding real-time communications technologies, code-named "Greenwich" late Wednesday. The centerpiece of Greenwich is now a brand new server product called Microsoft Real-Time Communications Server (RTC Server) 2003 Standard Edition. Pricing and licensing terms aren't yet determined. A subset of those technologies will be provided as a free add-on for Windows Server 2003. A Software Development Kit is also being created and will be available through MSDN subscriptions. All three items are slated for third quarter availability.

The impulse for the products is Microsoft's aim to make money off the sharp growth in instant messaging use among corporate information workers, who primarily download free clients from AOL, Yahoo! or MSN. The reason Microsoft may succeed is IT administrators' frustration in dealing with security, support and legal issues surrounding the primarily freelance IM efforts of their users.

"The take-off of instant messaging in the enterprise, even on an unmanaged basis, has shown how valuable real-time communications and 'presence' is to today's information worker," Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Real-Time Messaging and Platform Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. According to Gupta, Microsoft customers are asking for an instant messaging platform that is manageable, extensible and based on industry standards.

Microsoft has chosen two main standards to support: SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions).

Currently, Microsoft defines RTC Server as a manageable and extensible instant messaging server with security and logging built in. Benefits include the ability to present a standard way of finding users and potential user management through the Active Directory. Negatives include a lack of federation capability in the initial version, meaning users would be unable to find or contact people outside the organization. Microsoft plans to address that problem later.

A subset of the RTC Server technologies will be available as an add-on component of Windows Server 2003. By adding those capabilities to the Windows networking stack, Microsoft hopes to create a supportive ecosystem for developers to create a wide range of presence-aware applications.

Several hundred customers have downloaded a trial version of the Greenwich technologies since Microsoft opened a beta testing program in early March.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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