SAP To Join Suns Liberty Alliance

Software giant SAP ruffled Microsoft's feathers this week with its J2EE app server, next month the enterprise software giant will announce support for a rival to Microsoft's Passport technology.

LOS ANGELES – Software giant SAP AG ruffled Microsoft Corp.s feathers this week by announcing that its major new software architecture will feature support for Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java.

Now a source revealed that SAP is again leaning towards the Sun camp for key technologies in the Web services race.

A source close to SAP informed eWeek that the company will announce next month its participation in Suns Liberty Alliance Project for application security standards.

Liberty is a coalition Sun formed along with dozens of partners from the high-tech, financial, automotive and travel industries that is developing an interoperable network identity technology. Charter members include Bank of America, i2 Corp., General Motors Corp., RSA Security Inc., Entrust Inc., American Airlines and Verisign Inc.

Liberty competes with Microsofts Passport network authentication technology, which is part of the Redmond, Wash., companys .Net initiative.

Because Microsoft holds 95 percent of front-end federated identity systems, SAP cannot afford to ignore Microsofts technology. SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, has definite plans to talk to Microsoft about Passport inclusion, but will have to wait until Microsoft cools down about this weeks Web app server announcement.

On Tuesday, at its TechEd conference here, SAP introduced its new mySAP Technology infrastructure. A principle feature is a re-architected Web Application Server that supports Suns J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) component-based development standard alongside ABAP, SAPs proprietary development language. The new Web app server, due next year, essentially paves the way for SAPs entry into Web services – and goes a long way towards upsetting Microsoft, which is readying its own .Net infrastructure for Web services.

SAP has been adamant that it is not shunning .Net or Microsoft and said that while J2EE is now a component of SAPs new Web app server, .Net will be supported through an adapter interface.

Despite this move to support both Sun and Microsoft technologies in its Web app server, some question whether SAP will fully support Microsofts Passport technology as its currently architected. While both Liberty and Passport provide a mechanism for single sign on to a federation of users– hence the term federated identities – with Passport all user information is stored in a Microsoft database.

With the Liberty architecture, companies authenticate through Liberty for single sign on to other companies in the federation, but they maintain their own user information.

SAP is not alone among enterprise software vendors in its support for Liberty. Officials at PeopleSoft Inc. said that company also would join the Sun security initiative.

While PeopleSoft, of Pleasanton, Calif., will ship software interfaces that support communication standards UDDI and Simple Object Access Protocol in the first quarter of 2002 – the latter championed by Microsoft – PeopleSoft is taking a wait-and-see approach with the .Net and Passport technologies.

Ram Gupta, executive vice president of products and technology at PeopleSoft, likens .Net to the ASP(application service provider) movement.

"The ASP models [reception] was lukewarm because fundamentally customers wanted to have their own [IT] shop," said Gupta. "Nobody wanted to depend on some third-party company to update their general ledger.

"I dont know if everyone will want, every time they use a computer [for Web services] to go to Microsoft," said Gupta. "How do you convince people that as they do their job, theyll have to depend on Microsoft?"