Sun IDs Identity Management Opportunity, Strategy

Sun Microsystems puts its Vaau acquisition and ISV partners at the center of a strategy to take on Oracle and IBM in the identity and access management business.

Sun Microsystems plans to leverage a combination of partnerships and technology to make headway in the governance, risk and compliance space.

As part of the company's strategy, Sun officials said it will launch a number of identity management offerings in the next 12 months. A key element of the strategy is Sun Role Manager, a rebranded version of the identity and access management software Sun acquired when it purchased Vaau. Sun released the product March 4.

"Starting next quarter, we will be expanding our Governance, Risk and Compliance ecosystem, which will include GRC ISV partners, SI solutions and new Sun GRC offerings," said John Barco, director of strategic marketing for Identity Management at Sun. "Our portfolio will address all areas of identity management, including access management, federation, Web services security and auditing."

Sun's push to expand its identity management offerings comes as analysts predict that the identity and access management market will continue to grow. Forrester Research predicted that the IAM market will expand to $12.3 billion by 2014, up from $2.6 billion in 2006. Sun closed on its acquisition of Vaau in February to improve Sun's competitive position in the identity audit and compliance space.

"When you think about the daily changes in employees' roles with transfers, promotions, terminations and cross-team collaboration within big companies, you start to understand that access management is not as simple as it seems and it involves many resources to make it work," Barco said. "Two key components of Sun's governance, risk and compliance platform are our enterprise role management and identity management technologies. With GRC issues becoming boardroom issues, we are creating solutions that help companies better manage risk and expand their reach."

Counting Oracle and IBM as the company's key rivals, Barco said Sun will rely on alliances to build a portfolio on open-source technologies. For example, he noted that Sun and Deloitte recently launched an ERLM (Enterprise Role Lifecycle Management) solution that helps customers improve access control automation and reduce costs. The company's work around open source has also allowed it to engage customers early on in the development cycle of new products, he said.

"All of our new product development is taking place in open source and this has proven to be invaluable to us-we've been able to get input early on," Barco said. "The new updates we'll be releasing this year are fruits of the collaboration and input we've seen in open source."

Gartner analyst Earl Perkins said Sun must demonstrate that it can sustain the value proposition that drove it to an early market lead in deployments despite pressure from Oracle and IBM. The company still lacks the level of expertise in reaching the GRC audiences Oracle has through its enterprise application routes, or that IBM has through its compliance and audit routes, he said.

"That has to change," Perkins said. "The Vaau acquisition adds to steps already taken in improving identity auditing to improve the message to the business audience and address concerns related to role lifecycle management in the base product. Sun must also provide a road map for addressing how a refined roles environment can then be used by an entitlement management framework-i.e., authorization management-that is consistent with their work in federation and the Liberty Alliance."