Momentum is gathering across industry sectors behind the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) real-time communications protocol for internet protocol-based voice, video and instant messaging.
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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.
Siemens Enterprise Networks' SIP-based software application has been 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 mobile phones, desk phones, and e-mail.
Microsoft's Greenwich real-time communication platform supports SIP for PC-to-PC data, voice, and video and lets developers stitch presence awareness and IM into enterprise applications and devices
Grenwich has already been released for beta testing, and Microsoft will launch the application this summer.
IBM Lotus already ships a SIP gateway in its Sametime IM offering, and Nortel will accelerate its converged desktop initiative with multimedia services to existing voice capabilities in its SIP-based Succession Interactive Multimedia Server later this year.
"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. "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 led by IBM Lotus, Microsoft, Yahoo!and America Online, 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 .
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.
"IM needs more than data, it needs voice and integration with other communications systems and enterprise applications to reach its potential," said Mark Straton, senior vice president of marketing at Siemens Enterprise Networks.
"The data and telecom worlds are coming together with business applications."