October 18, 2004
IM On The March As U.S. Military Experiments With Jabber
A Pentagon research unit's selection of Jabber's XMPP for testing is one more indication that instant messaging and presence awareness technologies are moving into the mainstream.
Jabber, Inc. () announced on Monday that its Jabber Extensible Communications Platform (Jabber XCP) has been selected by the U.S. Joint Forces Command for inclusion in the military R&D unit's development of advanced command and control systems.
Jabber XCP is a real-time presence and messaging platform which allows people, devices and applications to communicate and exchange data based on dynamic presence and availability information. Jabber XCP is built on top of the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), an open protocol based in XML. The announcement of the U.S. Joint Forces Command () adoption means that Jabber XCP will be included in the unit's experimentation program aimed at developing advanced real-time intelligence systems for the military.
"Real-time collaboration is a really hot area for the military, for homeland security, for all kinds of first-responder organizations," says David Marshak, senior analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group, the Boston-based technology strategy consulting firm. "IM and presence technologies are going to be used for expertise locators, for collaboration -- things like the ability to look at a map together."
Presence, Marshak says, is most important. He expects that the military will use technologies like Jabber XCP to build advanced presence tools, such as the ability to display presence by role: "You'd be able to see if the right kind of person is available -- an intelligence officer, or a translator with certain language skills, for example."
Similar technologies have earned attention for their performance in war zones: Groove Network's peer-to-peer collaboration product has been used in Iraq, and Groove () recently announced a contract with the U.S. Army to include Groove Virtual Desktop in the Army's Battle Command Knowledge System. Groove's software is also a core component of the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Information Network.
There is a major difference between Groove and IM products like Jabber XCP, says Marshak: "The presence-awareness piece of Groove is tied to workspaces, it's very contextual. IM presence, on the other hand, is very non-contextual. It's expressed in things like buddy lists."
XMPP vs. SIP/SIMPLE
The USJFCOM announcement comes on the heels of XMPP's advancement as an Internet standard. On Oct. 4 the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) published RFCs on the XMPP specifications. Analysts have speculated in whether XMPP will compete with SIP/SIMPLE for supremacy as the Internet's IM and presence protocol of choice. XMPP's steady march toward status as an Internet standard and its adoption by organizations like USJFCOM would seem to give it momentum.
Marshak, however, cautions against reading too much into the announcement. "I don't think it's necessarily an endorsement of one protocol over another. Jabber XMPP probably is more extensible in the direction the military needs, as opposed to products like [Microsoft's] Live Communication Server, say, or IBM Lotus Instant Messaging. They're choosing a platform they can build on rather than a product that plugs in for a particular use."
For most enterprises, he says, that won't be the central issue in adopting instant messaging. "The issue is less what is best to build on than what provides the best interoperability. The two central problems with IM for companies are interoperability, the federation of IM systems across organizations, and the biggest one, how people find each other across these multiple systems."