EDial using IM as hub to integrate voice, data

FRAMINGHAM (10/03/2003) - Real-time collaboration is all about integrating various communication tools, and vendor eDial Inc. this week will release a server that ties together voice and data using instant messaging as its hub.

EDial's Instant Collaboration System (ICS) is a standards-based gateway that integrates Web-based instant messaging and presence - a messaging technology that lets users or devices quickly find each other - with telephony, Web conferencing and Web-based document sharing. ICS incorporates Session Initiation Protocol and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), both of which are real-time communication standards.

With ICS, eDial beats vendors such as Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. in offering standards-based integration of multi-vendor, real-time communications tools.

ICS uses a browser interface in its built-in instant-messaging and conferencing services, and employs SIP and SIMPLE to integrate other tools, including PBX or other instant-messaging infrastructures on an intranet or extranet.

Within the browser interface, users can create buddy lists, start a Secure Sockets Layers secured instant-messaging session, see who's online or on the phone, click to initiate a single- or multi-party phone call, and begin a document-sharing session or Web conference. Call-control features include mute and hold, and sessions are logged and audited.

Reuters is in the final stages of testing ICS throughout its financial news network. It says the browser is key to standardizing the front end of its instant-messaging platform, which it is integrating with instant-messaging services from AOL Inc., IBM/Lotus and Microsoft.

"We are building an infrastructure for collaboration on instant messaging, and a requirement is to offer the service through a Web interface," says David Gurle, executive vice president for collaboration services at Reuters.

The interface is one of three uses that Reuters has planned for ICS, which will be rolled out to 1,600 users. "We also want to associate presence with telephony," Gurle says. "When our customers want to reach someone they want to know if they are there and if they are available by phone."

Gurle says Reuters also will explore using ICS as a sort of application server for real-time communication to create a link between asynchronous and synchronous collaboration tools.

"We'll be able to see who is available on our buddy lists and click to call them," Gurle says. "Then, instead of explaining over the phone something on an Excel spreadsheet, we can click on our buddy list to start a document-sharing session. ICS is a very elegant way to do this."

Experts say ICS avoids lock-in to one collaboration platform.

"EDial understands the value in tying together these various systems," says David Marshak, director of consulting services for Patricia Seybold Group.

ICS costs US$1,000 for 1,000 users. It runs on Windows and Linux, and works with existing voice-over-IP infrastructures. A second version that includes a server for connecting to a legacy PBX, costs $8,000 for 1,000 seats. Both options also require a $30 user license per seat.

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