SIP fuels communications interplay

Driven by voice and platform vendors, protocol promises to unite IM, video, voice

Momentum is gathering across a broad swath of industry sectors behind the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) real-time communications protocol for IP-based voice, video, and IM.

With support from IM platform heavyweights IBM and Microsoft as well as voice-and-data convergence players such as Siemens and Cisco Systems, SIP is being eyed as a way to unify disparate communication systems.

This week, for instance, Siemens Enterprise Networks division plans to take the wraps off a SIP-based software application designed to consolidate access to multiple communication types, including voice, e-mail, and IM. Built on Microsoft’s Greenwich and Windows Server 2003, the OpenScape application also extends IM’s presence-awareness capabilities to cell phones, desk phones, and e-mail, according to representatives of San Jose, Calif.-based Siemens.

Microsoft earlier this month popped the lid off a beta of its Greenwich real-time communication platform, which supports SIP for PC-to-PC data, voice, and video and lets developers stitch presence awareness and IM into enterprise applications and devices, according to Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash. The company plans this summer to ship the commercial-ready offering. IBM Lotus already ships a SIP gateway in its Sametime IM offering. Nortel later this year plans to accelerate its converged desktop initiative with multimedia services to existing voice capabilities in its SIP-based Succession Interactive Multimedia Server.

“We are seeing [many] vendors take a more active interest in SIP, not only as a protocol for enabling IM, but collaborative communication in general,” said Chris Kozup, program director at Meta Group in Burlingame, Calif. “SIP has a central role to play in this arena.”

One of SIP’s advantages is its simplicity, Kozup said. “History has shown us it is typically the less complex protocols that win out,” he said. For example, development of H.323, another real-time protocol, has stalled under the weight of its complexity.

In the IM segment, which is lead by IBM Lotus, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL, SIP and SIMPLE (SIP for IM and Presence Leveraging Extensions) are poised to win the standards race, according to Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research in Black Diamond, Wash.

“SIP and SIMPLE are going to make it, mainly because IBM and Microsoft are pushing it,” Osterman said. Jabber’s XMPP [Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol] “may be technically better, but it is hard to argue with IBM and Microsoft getting behind SIP,” he said.

Beyond laying the foundation for future interoperability among IM platforms, SIP holds promise to break down the walls between traditionally separate forms of collaboration and communication.

Eyeing this potential, Siemens is attempting to bridge multiple communication types with real-time presence awareness of its OpenScape. The open application architecture sits in the middleware layer,   and can unite existing systems, such as CRM, ERP, groupware and directories, according to Mark Straton, senior vice president of marketing at Siemens Enterprise Networks.

“IM needs more than data, it needs voice and integration with other communications systems and enterprise applications to reach its potential,” Straton said. “The data and telecom worlds are coming together with business applications.”

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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