Sun ships Passport alternative
- By John K. Waters
Sun Microsystems last week began shipping Version 6.0 of its SunONE Identity
Server, said to be one of the first commercially available ID servers based on
Liberty Alliance Project specifications for federated network identity. The
server uses Version 1.0 of the Liberty spec, which was unveiled last July.
Sun officials describe the SunONE Identity Server (formerly iPlanet Directory
Server Access Management Edition) as a Web access management server. The server
is part of Sun's platform for identity management, which also includes its
Directory Server, Meta Directory Server and Certificate Server. The identity
server comes bundled with the SunONE Portal Server, and the company plans to
integrate it with other server products (app, Web and messaging), as well as its
Solaris operating system.
According to Sun, the Liberty Alliance spec was designed to let users create
a ''federated'' network identity and authentication-sharing mechanism that is
interoperable with existing identification systems. The spec defines a set of
protocols and policies that enable consumers to protect the privacy and security
of their network identity information; allows businesses to maintain and manage
their customer relationships without third-party participation; and provides an
open, single sign-on standard that includes decentralized authentication
authorization from multiple providers.
The Liberty 1.1 spec, still in draft as of this writing, incorporates the
Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) specification and adds a set of usage
policies. Sun told e-ADT that it would add support for the 1.1 version with a
patch release when that spec is finalized, expected sometime in March.
The SAML 1.0 specification defines an XML framework for exchanging security
assertions among security authorities. According to Sun, the main goal of SAML
is to achieve interoperability across different vendor platforms that provide
authentication and authorization services.
This so-called federated ID management is fast becoming a key technology for
distributed e-commerce, e-business and Web services. According to John Barco,
senior product marketing manager for SunONE, interest in establishing a cohesive
identity management strategy in the enterprise is coming largely from upper
management. ''We are seeing a trend of a top-down view of the business units,
with this software used to secure those business units and cut costs,'' Barco
said. ''As companies using Identity Server 6.0 start to gain interest in a
federated identity model to use with their partners, they will already have the
Sun's ID server is seen as an alternative to Microsoft's oft-maligned
Passport service. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker claims approximately
14 million users of its authentication service, and has not shown an interest in
joining the Liberty Alliance. Approximately 60 companies support the Liberty
Alliance, including such heavyweights as America Online, Cingular Wireless,
France Telecom, United Airlines, American Airlines, American Express, MasterCard
and General Motors. Half-a-dozen software vendors, including Novell, RSA and
Entrust, support Liberty, but both Oracle and IBM have remained neutral.
Identity Server 6.0 ships with a set of 15 agents that control authentication
to enterprise systems such as PeopleSoft, Lotus Domino, IBM WebSphere, BEA
WebLogic and Apache Web Server. Platforms supported are Solaris 8, 9 and x86,
Red Hat 7.2 (6.1 only) and Windows 2000.
Pricing for Identity Server 6.0 starts at $10 per user.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached