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Liberty Alliance Releases First Phase of Web Services Framework

Because the importance of identity has been elevated across the board, Liberty Alliance, a global consortium for open federated identity standards and identity-based Web services, has released ID-WSF 2.0, the second version of its Web services framework specifications.

Version 2.0 includes support for SAML 2.0, the most current federation standard in the industry, according to Gerry Gebel, senior analyst with the Burton Group, Salt Lake City. This added support, he continues, gives people who have implemented ID-FF, Liberty Alliance's own identity federation framework, a migration path to SAML 2.0.

The new release, Gebel adds, shows continued progress and continued development of this set of specifications. “It offers Web services implementers a choice of security specifications to implement instead of using something proprietary or waiting for all of the ws-* standards to complete,” he notes.

Liberty Alliance is releasing ID-WSF 2.0 in phases to accommodate continued rapid industry deployment. Three phases are due out by the end of the year, the first phase being focused on SAML 2.0 support. The second and third phases will include features to give implementers the ability to leverage custom Web services, as well as those being developed in the services groups within Liberty Alliance.

On the positive side of the phased release, “it gives people some notice as to what features are going to be available when so they can plan for it,” Gebel says. “Hopefully these are in chunks that are easily digested--easy to implement and easy for vendors to support.”

There are always pluses and minuses, however. On the down side of the phased release, what is an organization to do if it needs some of the features that are not available until later in the year? “The phase approach introduces more change into the environment,” Gebel adds. “It's sometimes difficult to implement new features because it can be disruptional to the environment,” referring to the strain this type of release can put on change management systems.

When Liberty Alliance releases a new specification, the first change is that vendors have to support it in their product, Gebel explains. Then enterprises have to deploy those versions of the product. “It's something that doesn't happen just with the flick of a switch,” he says. “It does take some time.”

It will most likely be some time in mid-2006 before the spec features are widely available in products, and customers can deploy all of the WSF version, which eventually will also include specs on policy, trust, and secure conversation, among others.

Unlike other standards development groups where vendors drive the process, Liberty Alliance is strongly end-user influenced, Gebel points out. End users can be involved in various levels of membership, participate in meetings and be on par with any other vendor or representative, he says. They're involved in drafting specifications and involved in every way. “They're even involved with the management and operation of the organization.”

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at freelancewriter@gates-works.com.

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