Sun Promises First Liberty Solution

The new Sun One Platform for Network Identity will take on Microsoft's Passport for Web site identity management.

One day after the Liberty Alliance Project released its first specifications for identity management, Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday joined the rush to capitalize on the announcement, taking the wraps off what it called the first Liberty-enabled single sign-on solution.

The Sun One Platform for Network Identity comprises two main products: the Identity Server version 6 and the Directory Server version 5.2. The new offering also includes two new professional services offerings as well as Sun hardware products.

In announcing the platform, Sun executives couldnt resist the opportunity to take a swipe at rival Microsoft Corp. and its Passport service, a competitor of the new Liberty specification, saying that the Liberty Alliance is a defensive move against what its members perceive as Microsofts overly aggressive tactics.

"Microsoft has begun to consolidate consumer identity in such a way that it threatens the industry," said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president, software, at Sun, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Passport is a free service that Microsoft hopes to use as the basis for an advanced single sign-on solution for business and consumer Web sites.

To counter Microsofts moves, Sun has included support for both the Liberty specification and Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) in the new version of its Identity Server. Expected to be available in October, the server also includes support for Kerberos version 5 authentication as well as plug-ins for Windows 2000 and NT authentication.

Directory Server 5.2 will include password synchronization with Microsofts Active Directory and support for Suns Cluster 3.0 high-availability technology. The new version is scheduled for release in November.

While Sun and Microsoft have been trading barbs over the merits of their respective identity management platforms, others in the industry say their bickering is hurting the market for Web services security solutions.

"Its beyond out of hand. Its remarkable how much of it is laced with propaganda about how great its going to be tomorrow when all of this stuff is available," said Roger Sullivan, president of Phaos Technology Corp., a New York maker of Java-based security products, including a suite of XML security tools. "These huge battles scare the hell out of customers. Id like to see the rhetoric toned down a bit, because its causing agita in the marketplace."