Microsoft Pushes Authentication Plan

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-09-24

Microsoft Corp. last week announced an initiative that it hopes will facilitate a trusted, interoperable authentication network across the Internet.

But the Redmond, Wash., software maker also hopes the move will help spur adoption and usage of its Passport authentication service and, ultimately, its Web services.

The company is proposing something its calling Internet Trust Network, which would enable open, federated authentication; universal single sign-on to all users; and interoperability among different enterprise and service authentication systems.

The goal is to enable a world where Web services based on Extensible Markup Language can interoperate freely, through a broad Internet Trust Network similar to e-mail, Domain Name System and the ATM network created by the banking industry, said Brian Arbogast, vice president of Microsofts .Net core services platform.

"We realize that there will be many authenticators on the Internet, including enterprises for their own staff and other service operators beyond Microsoft. As such, we need a model for bridging across these networks," Arbogast said.

To achieve this, the network and Microsofts own Passport service would support Kerberos 5.0, an open standard for authentication, which "provides a secure mechanism for creating trusted relationships across otherwise distinct boundaries," Arbogast said.

Microsoft would take the lead in the formation of this network by making Passport available for federation with other authentication systems, he said. This means that Passport will be able to accept credentials issued by other organizations that are part of the network, and they could in turn accept Passport credentials. This is a major shift for Microsoft, which has until now been the only operator of Passport.

Microsoft used the announcement to rename its core group of initial Web services, formerly known as HailStorm, as .Net My Services. While the company plans to federate the services, details will be made available at its Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles next month, Arbogast said.

Passport will support universal single sign-on next year, while Microsofts Windows .Net Server line, due next year, will also allow organizations of all sizes to easily and securely participate in the Internet Trust Network.

If the initiative gains the necessary support, enterprises will be able to participate by licensing Windows .Net Server or buying an implementation of Kerberos Version 5.0. Authentication providers could outsource authentication to Passport or, in the future, to other federated authentication providers. They could also buy or build an authentication system that is compliant with Kerberos 5.0, Arbogast said.

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