The move follows the launch of Yahoo!'s enterprise IM service earlier this month. Microsoft plans to add corporate-friendly security and management features to its MSN Messenger in November.
AOL's AIM Enterprise Gateway server will provide existing AIM clients with features such as traffic management, message auditing and logging, and the ability to map user names to a corporate directory, sources claim.
Sources said AOL's new server would be based on technology from FaceTime Communications, which makes network-independent IM applications for businesses.
FaceTime's products add regulatory compliance, IT control, and call-centre interaction tools to IM. AOL will put a private label on FaceTime's technology platform and license it to customers.
Other features of the AIM Enterprise Gateway include an intranet traffic-management feature designed to create a separate network for employee-to-employee communications behind the firewall.
The system can detect an AIM user's ID to determine whether to route the traffic through the Internet to AOL's servers or to keep the communication within the corporate network. In addition, the server will include APIs designed to extend AOL's IM and presence technology to other applications.
AOL will also release a secure IM client with encryption capabilities designed to connect with its Enterprise Gateway server.
AOL will head to market with a host of channel and system integrator partnerships designed to ease transition into the enterprise. VeriSign and FaceTime are lined up to resell the offering. AOL also plans to enlist help from a variety of system integrators.
And, because AOL has backed down from an earlier promise to open its network to competitors via support for SIMPLE (Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions), the company's corporate thrust will include an interoperability effort spearheaded by partners who will provide access to AIM.
Yahoo!'s entry into the corporate space with its Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise Edition 1.0 couples security and management features with the ability to communicate with the company's free Messenger client.
The corporate client, due to ship in the first quarter of 2003, will offer encryption based on SSL, authentication and name/space control through corporate directories, and integration with auditing and virus protection tools.
Yahoo! also fielded support from Oracle, BEA Systems, Novell, and Sun Microsystems to help integrate Messenger Enterprise with corporate portals and directories.
AOL and Yahoo!'s plans are a natural extension of their IM capabilities, according to Michael Sampson, a research analyst at Ferris Research in San Francisco.
"I think the way it will play out over time is that an IT department will select a corporate platform [from IBM or Microsoft], but will seek tariff-based interoperability with the consumer networks," Sampson said.