New VoIP solutions are coming at us from all directions these days, reflecting a variety of approaches, contexts, and technologies. The word pervasive comes to mind.
This week, Jive Software, creator of the highly successful enterprise-oriented real-time collaboration (read: instant messaging) application Openfire, announced the enhancement of that product’s latest version with voice communications.
(Actually, to avoid confusing readers already familiar with Jive and its products, the real-time piece has, up to now, been known as Wildfire; the name change coincides with the beta release of version 3.2, with its new voice capability.)
Voice over instant messaging protocols is nothing new, of course. Skype, GoogleTalk, and other Web-based VoIM services have been around for a while now. But Openfire 3.2 is different—especially from Skype—in two important respects.
First is that it is built on open standards—most importantly, XMPP (eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol)—and is an open-source, open-architecture solution. Jive has implemented voice using Jingle, the XMPP protocol extensions designed for transporting rich media.
The second is that, unlike any of the popular, Web-based solutions, Openfire is “built from the ground up as an enterprise application,” according to Jive CEO Dave Hersh.
What does that mean? It means that, unlike Skype, to pick on the most visible example, Openfire is fully under the control of an organization’s IT staff. Security, authentication, configuration, reporting and administration are all in-house. It handles archiving for regulatory compliance. Those control and management issues are vital for the enterprise.
“We’ve been through the enterprise ringer,” Hersh told VoIPplanet.com. “We work with a lot of large companies that have driven the product development to support the needs of medium to large organizations—which can be pretty intensive.”
In other words, Jive’s product development is highly customer driven. In this case, “what our customers are looking for is a way to add voice to a richer collaboration environment,” Hersh said. “Rather than trying to own voice, we’re just doing what our customers are asking for, which is building voice into an open and flexible framework where they can apply it to the things they need.”
Why start from IM? On the most basic level, as Hersh puts it, “IM is everywhere. Over 90 percent of organizations are using IM capacity. Users love it.” So weaving voice into the same fabric makes some obvious sense.
But there’s another dimension: Jive regards the IM client as “extremely valuable desktop real estate,” according to Hersh. “We think it’s the last desktop client to survive the Webification of everything. Web clients [browsers] now simply cannot keep up with the rich notifications and interactions you have to do if you’re talking about real-time applications,” he explained.
Indeed, going forward, Jive will be adding more real-time communications capabilities—whiteboarding, multiparty audio conferencing, and video—into Spark (the company’s IM client).
Hersh did not mention a timetable for these developments. But he was at pains to make clear that, officially, Openfire 3.2 is still regarded as a beta release. You can download it, and it should work as advertised, but Jive will not officially support it for another several weeks.