Intel, Oracle Boost Liberty Alliance by Signing On

Their membership in the federated identity standards group brings it beyond small vendors and open-source supporters, leaving Web services standards as the only potential competition to its federated approach.

The Liberty Alliance announced on Monday that it has signed up the worlds biggest chip maker—Intel Corp.—and its database king, Oracle Corp.

The Liberty Alliance is a global consortium devoted to developing an open, federated identity standard. The idea is to offer businesses, governments, employees and consumers a secure and convenient way to store personal identity information as a means to driving e-commerce and Web-based services.

George Goodman, Intels director of platform software for the corporate technology group, said the motivation behind joining the Liberty Alliance is to improve the ability of Intels chips and platforms to provide a trusted role in a variety of uses—particularly the more robust platforms that have not been the focus of past Liberty Alliance efforts, such as its IA-32 architecture and Xscale embedded applications processor.

/zimages/3/28571.gifPart of Intels healthy fourth-quarter 2003 revenue was due in part to a 50 percent increase in Xscale sales. Click here to read more.

"By the nature of whence the alliance came and the folks that have been participating, theres been a large focus on the handset arena, with people like our friends from Nokia and [L.M. Ericsson] and such," Goodman said in Hillsboro, Ore. "Thats understandable. A lot of focus with the alliance has been on relatively simple identification of identity, such as simple sign-on.

"As we move forward, we want to make sure everybody has a place to play," he said.

The Liberty Alliance was kicked off by Sun Microsystems Inc. in what many say was a retaliatory gesture against Microsoft Corp. when it acquired Hotmail and launched its Hailstorm initiative. Through Hailstorm, Microsoft sought to cast itself as a centralized authentication service for personal data including online users names, addresses, user data and buying habits.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here for more details on how Microsofts now-defunct Hailstorm initiative aimed to become the gatekeeper for everyones personal, individual Web services.

Since its start, the Liberty Alliance has attracted small vendors, the open-source community and customers who were disaffected by what was happening with federated authentication, according to Earl Perkins, a vice president at The META Group Inc.

"[The Liberty Alliance] was mainly vendors, until a year ago: vendors like Entrust or Novell [Inc.], which is fairly big, but not the likes of [Hewlett-Packard Co.] or Oracle or any of the major ones," Perkins said in New Orleans. "For the longest time, you didnt have that kind of big-name draw."

More importantly, the Liberty Alliance lacked identity-management or infrastructure names, until recently. "Now, you have Oracle joining, you have IBM starting to join," Perkins said. "The Liberty Alliance has started to gain some credibility in the eyes of some of the identity-infrastructure and management and security vendors in the space.

Web services standards from the likes of OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) are the only potential competition to the Liberty Alliances federated approach, Perkins said. But that competition is far down the road, considering how early in evolution that technology now stands.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of such influential technology players as Intel and Oracle mean that the Liberty Alliance is the only game in town, Perkins said.

"Big vendors are finally being told by [large customers such as American Express Co.], You either join, or Im not buying your stuff," he said. "The big vendors are finally saying, Oh, well, hell, its the only game in town. We better make sure our products conform. The Web services stuff isnt ready."

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