IM goes mainstream

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Instant messaging (IM) applications and wireless LANS are two technologies that will move into the corporate mainstream in 2004, according to research group Gartner.

Instant messaging (IM) applications and wireless LANS are two technologies that will move into the corporate mainstream in 2004, according to research group Gartner.

IM technology has traditionally been popular among the consumer crowd and is particularly used by teenagers, but concerns about its security have stymied its adoption by large enterprise customers. Similarly wireless LANS have not conventionally been approved by enterprises for corporate use due to issues with Wi-Fi security.

However, with the arrival of new third-party software and security protocols, both technologies are more secure and poised to move from narrow niche to more widespread adoption by 2007, according to Gartner's Asia-Pacific vice-president Bob Hayward.

“Instant massaging has not reached a great deal of adoption within enterprises that is sanctioned, blessed and even encouraged by IS until very recently,” said Hayward, speaking at the Gartner Symposium 2003 in Sydney. "[IM] has an immediacy, which is part of the real time enterprise, and it's proved itself very productive," he said.

One of the security concerns with IM was that by using consumer grade IM applications such as Yahoo and AOL Messenger, enterprises data was exposed to the Internet, a public infrastructure. “Security risks are inherent," Hayward said. Other drawbacks with IM technology were the lack of audit trails and poor integration capabilities. “Once a conversation thread is gone, it's gone,” he said.

Hayward also predicted that Wi-Fi was another technology about to explode. “Wireless LANS can be highly appropriate for those in older, heritage buildings,” he said. Yet many organisations are astonished to discover smart end users within the company already using rogue access points, and the ease with which security breaches can happen. “We see this scenario changing over the next 18 months as out-of-the-box Wi-Fi products will address security issues, Hayward said.

Hayward described WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) as “fundamentally broken” and “not effective”. Alternatively, the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security specification found in newer wireless hardware, offered “business-class security”.

During his presentation, Hayward listed the top 10 technologies that would play a strategic role in the large enterprise market in 2004. Alongside IM and Wi-Fi security, these technologies were: the real time data warehouse; internal web Services; policy-based network or asset management; IP telephony; utility computing; grid computing; network security; and RFID tags. Hayward said these were technologies that had worked their way through Gartner's hype cycle, risks associated with the technology has been reduced, and issues such as privacy and efficacy have been resolved. 

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