Case Study: Microsoft/FaceTime

Bob Woods

Updated · May 13, 2002

Enterprise IM company:

Microsoft Corp.

Name of partnering company:
FaceTime Communications, which provides third-generation instant messaging and presence-based applications that enable companies to access human knowledge across all levels of the enterprise call center.

Partner’s problem:
FaceTime wanted to extend its Instant Customer suite to enable internal corporate communications so that tasks such as contacting a Human Resources department or help desk could be handled through IM services and not by phone calls.

Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server Instant Messaging with Microsoft Windows 2000

How it works:
The Exchange 2000 Server Instant Messaging feature extends the Instant Customer app so that enterprises can use communication services to improve service level performance, increase productivity, and reduce operational costs.

Exchange 2000’s IM functionality is integrated with the Microsoft Windows. 2000 Active Directory service to provide a managed, single directory for configuration data including channels, bans, classes, and network configuration, as well as user names.

Instant Customer is a software suite geared to companies that operate call centers. It manages inbound and outbound business/consumer communications using components such as instant messaging, Web text chat, e-mail, Voice over IP (VoIP), and Web collaboration.

FaceTime used Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server while it was still in beta. Exchange 2000 is part of the Microsoft .NET Enterprise Server product line. By marketing its product as a value-added application that takes advantage of a company’s investment in Exchange, FaceTime hoped its customers would view the product in the larger context of corporate communications. Additionally, the inclusion of IM in Exchange 2000 and its publication of key protocols meant that FaceTime had the tools to create an easy-to-use real-time messaging application on top of Exchange.

With the introduction of Exchange 2000 Server, FaceTime was able to extend the functionality of the Instant Customer suite into the enterprise by taking advantage of the support for instant messaging that Exchange 2000 offers. This includes an instant messaging service built on a secure, standards-oriented “federated” architecture that is suited for both enterprise deployment and deployments across the Internet for business-to-business communication.

“The whole notion of instant messaging in the enterprise is significant because of the performance and productivity gains it can add to an organization,” says Barry Shurtz, Director of Product Marketing and Business Development for FaceTime. “We’ve been highly successful in leveraging instant messaging for consumer-to-business communications. Now Exchange 2000 provides us with the tools and the platform to make our applications compelling even for communications within the enterprise.”

FaceTime thinks that a key step Microsoft took with Exchange 2000 was to make the RVP protocol public, so that third parties could build applications on top of Exchange. This action helped FaceTime’s efforts because the RVP protocol leverages existing standards including HTTP 1.1, which let the company build around connection management capabilities that are already available in commercial Web servers. Extracting structural elements of messages is made very easy as well, because the content of RVP-based messages are in XML.

Because it could focus its development efforts on the RVP protocol, FaceTime took advantage of:
HTTP 1.1-based transport. This let the FaceTime application use the scalable connection management available in commercial Web servers. Various existing, proven server-side Web frameworks such as servlets and ISAPI/NSAPI can be used to process incoming RVP notifications, parse RVP headers, and generate well-formed responses without any new development.

FaceTime says it is in negotiations with major corporations to deploy the Instant Customer solution on top of Exchange 2000 Instant Messaging.

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