OPN System Stakes Claim in Presence Management Space
OPN System: An all-Java IM and presence server with included client software, designed for enterprise-level use.
In the emerging market for enterprise instant messaging (IM), customers and vendors are betting on the growing use of IM to leverage not only business-oriented messaging but also new breeds of applications based on messaging and user presence information. In this market, few products stand out more than Antepo OPN (Open Presence Network) System.
OPN's claim to fame is its support both major camps of emerging IM protocols: XMPP and SIMPLE. The goal for OPN is interoperability, now and in the future.
This is a complete system that combines a fundamentally solid enterprise-level IM server, a high level of security and control, presence management, and a satisfactory IM client. Note that unlike an IM gateway servers (e.g., IM Manager, IM Auditor, and L7), OPN does not directly support the big public IM systems (i.e., AOL, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo!). Control and security is the name of this game, and opening to public IM with all its lurking hazards is not (yet) part of the OPN pitch.
OPN's claim to fame is its support both major camps of emerging IM protocols: XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), which is already an IETF standard that is generally more application oriented, and SIMPLE (SIP Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions), which is more communications-oriented and a standard still under development. The goal for OPN is interoperability, now and in the future. For enterprise IM to prosper, this is important, but it won't be easy. Although IBM and Microsoft, the two kingpins in the messaging space, support SIMPLE, they don't do it the same way and have proprietary twists in their implementations. Other systems, such as Jabber XCP, favor XMPP. At some point in the future, a new standard, CPIM (Common Profile for Instant Messaging), will be added to the mix. We give Antepo credit for understanding the need to navigate these protocol shoals.
Who Goes There?
In addition to being an enterprise IM system, OPN is a presence server. In general, "presence" means it performs a systematic collection and dispensing of information covering the who, what, where, and when: user X, located in department Y, who works on project Z, will be at her desk Tuesday between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm. This type of information, which is at the heart of most workflow and collaboration software, shows up in many programs, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook Calendar. The public IM systems have done much to popularize presence information by encouraging users to have online profiles and indicate their availability. They also provide the means to communicate in a variety of ways.
Antepo uses the catch-phrase, "The new dial tone" to describe OPN System. This means it stands at the ready to provide a variety of communication forms, in part based on presence information such as contact (buddy) lists/profiles and availability status. OPN System has picked up the presence features and made them a formal part of its structure and functionality. In addition, OPN System has added many other presence features, including: integration with Microsoft Outlook, group presence support, presence mirroring (multiple databases), Web presence (embedded page tags), and asymmetrical presence subscription (one user can see another user's presence without providing his own).
Our sense, after using the product, is IM is more of a wedge application than the end-point of the OPN System.
Installation for Scale
OPN System runs on most variants of Windows, Linux, and Unix as a J2SE 1.4 (Java) server. One of the enhancements in version 4.5 is an interactive, multiplatform installer (Zero-G). The wizard-driven installation process was fast and problem free with the caveat that we installed it on a "clean" server (one unencumbered with a lot of other software). The deployment options for OPN System are impressive. Many so-called enterprise products claim scalability but present few details. Antepo is unambiguously scalable and goes to lengths in its documentation to demonstrate how to do it, including unusually product-specific examples of hardware and software that can be used for various distributed and cluster configurations.
Managing presence information, on top of the usual logging and archiving of IM traffic, requires good database support. OPN System ships with an embedded database manager (McKoi) but also works with MS SQL, MySQL, and Oracle 8 or 9. Database resource management has been considerably improved in this version; one key enhancement is the capability to distribute database tasks (e.g., archiving, logging, and presence data) among different servers, which gives OPN System a leg up in a crucial area.