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TECH TALK: Messaging: The Smart Messaging Infrastructure

February 13th, 2001 · No Comments

Messages are becoming mission-critical. Can we establish an architecture which offers guaranteed quality of service for email and instant messaging across devices, very much like the telephone network? Today, emails are sent off literally into cyberspace. In most cases, we don’t know when they are delivered or when they are read. Messaging is the killer app on the Net, and it is going to become even more critical with more devices, and machines getting connected to the Net, and to people. As various devices start having an IP address and thus getting connected to the Internet, they will also start communicating. We will want to be never away from email, since we have begun to rely on email for much of our life. We need a reliable “MailTone” for consumers and corporates.

We need a network and devices for messaging which is somewhat like the existing GSM network for mobile phones across the world. You can take your phone from Bombay to Delhi or Hong Kong or Paris and as long as it has international roaming enabled, you can switch it on, get connected to a network and start making phone calls. The SIM in your phone authenticates you to your service provider – there is nothing else you need to do. Of course, you pay a heavy price in terms of money for making the calls! Messaging is still not as easy as that.

What is needed is a network and a smart one at that, layered on top of the Internet, which has intelligence and can provide quality of service to users. Today, most messages have the same priority as they travel across the network. I may be willing to pay more to ensure my messages travels faster and in a guaranteed time (say, one minute) to the destination. Today, it is like the whole world is using just one class of postal service, with the onus of delivery on the postal network. We need the equivalent of Fedex overnight delivery or a UPS 2/3-day delivery for bulkier packages (the electronic equivalent could be multimedia files). We need service-class differentiation and differential charging based on message priority.

What is needed is a Smart Messaging Infrastructure. There are three components to this infrastructure:

Smart Client: This would a browser-compatible mail client, which has enough intelligence on the client side to make me “do more by doing less”. It should watch what I do, and make me more efficient. There is a lot of information which can be gleaned by just watching – which messages I delete without even reading, which ones I read first, which ones are active threads (ongoing conversations), and which ones I forward to a select group of friends, colleagues. The Messaging Client is still dumb, other than for some rules-based management. This needs to change.

Smart Server: The Message Server can be either at the corporate-level or at the outsourced message provider (for example, Hotmail). This is where analysis can be done on incoming and outgoing messages to pick up trends. As a user, I may use multiple clients, but my message servers will be only a few (based on the email addresses I use – perhaps one each for personal and corporate messages). The Server will decide where I am and so which client needs to be tapped to get the message across to me. It can also do analysis so to which is the group of people I most frequently interact with. It can also glean intelligence on people’s interest areas by analysing message content.

Smart Network: The Internet already exists, so why do we need a separate Messaging Network? The answer: to offer service-level guarantees, to provide quality of service, to do message-based charging (for priority, guaranteed delivery). This can be thought of as an overlay network on top of the Internet. We will need to manage and route message traffic differently, because the volume of this is rising dramatically and often this is more critical than browsing traffic. Today, there is no distinction, even within companies.

Tags: Tech Talk

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