FaceTime to offer Skype management

GEM software will let security-conscious IT admins turn off Skype features such as file-sharing

Next month, FaceTime Communications plans to release new software that will make Skype a little easier to manage.

The company is readying a version 3.5 release of its Greynet Enterprise Manager (GEM) software that, for the first time, will allow IT administrators to do things like turn off Skype files-haring, network wide. GEM is a component of the FaceTime Internet Security Edition product.

FaceTime's software already can be used to manage instant messaging and peer-to-peer software, but the company has been working with eBay Inc.'s Skype subsidiary for the past few months to develop these new management capabilities.

The FaceTime enhancements were built using APIs (application programming interfaces) that Skype released with version 3.0 of its VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) software. These APIs let vendors like FaceTime manage the Skype client, mainly by enabling or disabling Skype's features said Kurt Sauer, Skype's chief security officer. "Most of what we've opened up at this time are a set of 'on/off' switches in the client," he said.

Sauer said other companies have now started using the new APIs to manage Skype, but he declined to name any of them.

Although about one-third of Skype's North American users have downloaded the software for business purposes, it has raised red flags with IT administrators who see it as a possible security risk and who are nervous about some Skype features like file-sharing.

In the past, the only way to prohibit a Skype feature was to block the Skype client outright. "The choice in the past has always been permit or deny," Sauer said. "That has not been a particularly useful choice."

FaceTime's GEM 3.5 upgrade will be available next month to FaceTime Internet Security Edition users, at no extra charge.