Wildfire Sure to Spread in Enterprises
Wildfire Enterprise: Cross-platform Java-based IM server. Jive Software's Wildfire Enterprise boasts an open API and plug-in architecture that sets it apart from proprietary instant messaging servers.
George Orwell probably would not have liked instant messaging. A hallmark of today's IM servers is "presence awareness," or the capability of the IM server to publish the availability of its users. Consequently, people work all day long watching IM windows announce the comings and goings of friends and colleagues who is offline, who is online, who is available to chat. And, mostly, we seem to like it this way. Alas, Orwell would not have been keen on Jive Software's Wildfire Enterprise. He would have felt the same way about Microsoft Live Communication Server and IBM Lotus Sametime, both commercial competitors in the IM server market.
Wildfire Enterprise is based on Jive's open source Wildfire IM server. The free, open source Wildfire is an XMPP (Jabber) compliant server that supports a variety of IM clients, including Wildfire's own Spark IM, as well as third-party clients including Adium, Gaim, and Trillian, to name a few. Wildfire is written purely in Java and, therefore, runs on any major platform with Java support.
The Windows distribution of Wildfire is a 25 MB download and initially installs into 100 MB of disk space. Wildfire connects to a database backend for storing users, settings, and chat archives. You can configure it to use its own included database or, for higher performance, any existing SQL database server. Administrators may need to customize Wildfire's SQL commands to work with their particular database. Enterprise users who enable chat archiving may, in time, see their database grow considerably in size. Installation on Windows is a breeze with a simple guided wizard. The server can launch as a Windows service and is administered entirely through a web browser.
Users of either the free Wildfire or Wildfire Enterprise enjoy many of this server's IM features. The server supports both one-to-one IM chats as well as group chats in conference rooms. Users can be assigned to groups, to which new members are automatically pushed. In other words, if a new user is added to a particular group, every user in that group will automatically see the new user in their contact list. In conferences, a moderator can control conversation flow by regulating who can join the room and their level of participation.
Wildfire boasts a robust file-transfer feature. Users of many IM servers know that sharing files can fail across many firewalls and other secure network configurations. If Wildfire fails to complete a file transfer through a preferred, high-speed method, it falls back to a tunneling mode where the file is carried as normal IM traffic. Although slower, this safety net ensures successful file transfers among Wildfire users.
Multiple Widlfire servers can be setup to communicate with one another, allowing an organization to scale its IM service to handle high traffic loads. Within a single server, Wildfire is designed as a modular system. Features are added or removed through plug-ins, some written by Jive Software and some by third parties. Plug-ins support a wide range of enhanced features from content filters to VoIP telephony through Asterisk PBX.
Wildfire Enterprise is, itself, enabled through a plug-in. When licensed, the Enterprise plug-in adds statistics, archiving, and client management to Wildfire. The dashboard displays real-time views of IM usage on the server. Archiving controls allow an administrator to view logs of past and present chats and, if enabled, even search for keywords in full chat logs. Client management features let Wildfire restrict which IM clients can connect to the server and what features clients may use (such as file transfers).
The Enterprise license also includes Spark Fastpath, a backend for interfacing Wildfire with customers. Fastpath supports integration between Web sites and Wildfire IM, including routing of live chats to appropriate parties, and automated, script-based responses. Enterprise licensees can also distribute custom skinned versions of the Spark IM client to end-users.
Because it is built on an open source platform, on an open source protocol (Jabber), Wildfire is highly customizable. Its open API and plug-in architecture sets Wildfire apart from proprietary IM servers, freeing customers from vendor lock-in.
Pros: Open source; Open architecture; Solid design and performance.
Cons: Enterprise license requires minimum one-year support contract.
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 8/24/2006
Original Review Version: 3.0.1
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