Saturday, May 31, 2008

The future of chat and presence - XMPP? Or Microsoft's OCS Bulkware?

There is a lot of talk about chat and presence in the enterprise. And of course as an IP PBX / Unified communications vendor 3CX is closely looking at chat. I am not sure most companies need chat, but definitely there are going to be enterprises using it. Right now chat in the enterprise (if allowed) is probably fragmented, with users installing clients of popular chat networks.

So what are the options? Of course the ever proprietary Microsoft has a solution - its 'Jack of all trades, master of none' product called Microsoft Office Communications Server. It does chat. Kind of. It has a proprietary client which works only with OCS. OCS itself requires a truck load of servers to setup and doesnt talk to any of the leading chat services. So with OCS you can now chat to the guy in the office next door. Great. Surely enterprise chat only works if you can use it to connect to todays AND tomorrows popular chat networks? Yahoo, MSN, Google et all? And talk to your customers, suppliers - the world basically? I am pretty sure chat can only be succesfull if based on an open standard. Just like the web is, email is, voip is.

Is XMPP this open standard protocol that will open up chat & worldwide presence? Its been around for a long time and has a lot of support. The Jabber chat server and its derivatives are based on it. Google uses it in its chat network, and there are loads of gateways to other chat networks implemented and working. If you would want chat, wouldnt you want an XMPP based solution? They are inexpensive (with several free options) and with lots of client options.

So where does 3CX tie in? We're evaluating our options how to integrate into enterprise chat. Do we create a simple integrated chat solution with SIP simple? Do we integrate with OCS? Or do we integrate XMPP and allow phone presence to be viewable in any XMPP compatible chat server and client?

I'd welcome the feedback from our 3CX community! Is chat important to you? If yes - standards based?

18 comments:

David Vella said...

Not from the 3CX community :)

Last I heard MS OCS does support the consumer IM clients such as Yahoo! Chat & MSN. It does that through a federation server.

Talking to consumer IM networks could actually be an issue for enterprise customers and a good thing for SMB customers.

Enterprise customers would probably be concerned in having consumer IM installed on their networks due to lack of control in
terms of security and compliance!

Integrating with Gtalk could be an interesting proposition for SMB customers, especially if these customers make use of GoogleApps already.

But really I do not believe the choice should be made based on which standards but should be made on why would a company need 'chat'!

As you yourself mentioned it isn't just about chat but also about presence awareness!

David Vella said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick Galea said...

The federation server might be an optional extra, but its very expensive, requires per user - per month licenses and an extra OS license. It would make sense for this to be incorporated into the base functionality, together with security and monitoring. Other chat servers such as Openfire are actually free and have a lot of that functionality plus a choice of clients...

Re presence, yes, but 3CX provides extensive presence via the SIP standard. This also interoperates with VOIP hardware phones.

It could easily be extended to support XMPP and thus display presence on VOIP clients, VOIP phones and any standards chat clients....

Igor, Ukraine said...

Dear Nick!
As I know an Openfire has SIP plugin so it can be integrated to any SIP service. I did not checked how it works, but I think that chat integration in 3CX is very important.
At many of our projects we installing Microsoft SBS + Openfire + 3CX. It would be great to unite Openfire (or any another chat - the "standard" is not so important)and 3CX. But do not forget about Active Directory integration!
About "presence" solution - I think the best choise is inplementation of Skype trunk. At present I am forced to use solution from Yeastar http://www.yeastar.com/Products/SiSkyEE.asp.
Most of the "standard" customers are not very happy installing anything but Skype.

Nick Galea said...

Thanks for the feedback igor!

Thats interesting to hear about Openfire. Yes integration is very doable. Do you use the free Openfire? Have you looked at ejabberd? Nice thing is that with XMPP we could support all XMPP based chat servers.

Re SKYPE - and do you have reliable results with that solution? SKYPE is proprietary and most solutions are either single channel or do not work well.

Igor said...

Nick!
As I read, the new v.3.5 of Openfire is totally Open so you not need to buy the Enterprise plugin.
About Skype. Yestar is made plugin for Skype that sit on standard Skype client and working good.

mattlandis said...

Interesting. We have been looking at IM solutions for clients and ourselves. Even being MS centric in our thinking I agree with your assesment of OCS. We may have to openfire a look.

Some companies IM may lead into a full IPPBX implementation? Might if people get comfortable with it.

Nick Galea said...

Matt,

Thats exactly my thinking. I think chat can be useful for many businesses, and it being integrated with a phone system has many advantages. OCS just seems very big and bulky, and all it really delivers is chat and video conferencing.

Nick Galea said...

We are also considering implementing chat using SIP simple btw and have it integrated into 3CX...

Anonymous said...

XMPP is like the dutch and italian teams. Look good but fail when it gets critical.....

Nick Galea said...

Well Italy has been 4 times worldchampion and holland one time european cup champions! So I will take that as a vote for XMPP!

In any case there is no question that XMPP is succesfull: There are numerous servers and clients, and google has based its chat infrastructure on it.

Anonymous said...

Italy WAS champion but failed completly.

Holland ONCE WAS a little champ after showing their spitting image. Now they even fail against weak russia!

But what does it mean? Like XMPP they looked good but fail to stay good. MS has shown the past 25 years how good they know how to stay!

Nick Galea said...

Hi Anon,

Sorry, but i dont agree. The times that Microsoft launched a product and become the dominant market force have gone. Witness microsoft CRM, ISA server and more.

It just conceded defeat over the document format. It has 96% or more of the desktop, but still it could not push through an open document standard and has to adopt the ODF standard in the next version of office. See http://bink.nu/news/microsoft-officer-admits-defeat-of-ooxml-quot-odf-has-clearly-won-quot.aspx

And Italy still is World champion, and Russia were sublime. :-)

Raffaele Valensise said...

Hi Nick.

My company just bought 3CX PBX to start evaluating its integration with Microsoft UCC technologies (we're MS Gold Certified Partner).

The Exchange integration works smoothly, but we feel that the lack of interoperability with OCS will prevent us to recommend the 3CX solution to our customers...

I really hope you'll change your mind about OCS (maybe you'll discover that it's not just about chat and video conferencing) since the 3CX PBX low price is very appealing for some customers.

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling Microsoft are the stumbling block. The proprietory standards they set are on purpose to only allow an all Microsoft solution.

Sarbjit Singh Gill said...

Integrate with OCS and you will have a huge market of OCS plus all it's partner products (Nortal, Cisco, Avaya).

Avaya has created huge integration capabilities with Microsoft platform (from OCS to MS CRM).

My $0.02 opinion.

Nick Galea said...

Hi Sarbjit,

OCS unfortunately is propritary and a difficult to integrate with. its also a competing product and i doubt that its really that succesfull.....

nortel integrated it and look where it got them :-)

Dreatori Alexis said...

I like how they improve productivity with presence, desktop based call control and extension management. It is also far less expensive to purchase and expand than a hardware-based PBX/PABX.
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