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Microsoft And Sun Partner On Identity Specs

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems on Friday unveiled jointly developed specifications that will enable Web single sign-on between Sun's Solaris operating system and Java Enterprise System and Microsoft's Windows Server.

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. on Friday unveiled jointly developed specifications, which will support Web single sign-on between the companies' systems.

Specifically, the new specs support single sign-on between Sun's Solaris operating system and Java Enterprise System (JES) and Microsoft's Windows Server.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and Sun CEO Scott McNealy announced the specs Friday during a news conference in Palo Alto, Calif. The meeting was called to update reporters and analysts on the landmark interoperability alliance the two companies announced a year ago.

"This is just the beginning of a long list of projects we're working on," McNealy said in a statement.

The companies have jointly developed two draft specifications: the Web Single Sign-On Metadata Exchange (Web SSO MEX) protocol and Web Single Sign-On Interoperability profile (Web SSO Interop Profile).

The technology enables browser-based Web single sign-on between security domains that use Liberty Identity Federation Framework and WS-Federation. Liberty ID-FF, developed by the Liberty Alliance industry standard group; and WS-Federation, developed by BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft, RSA Security and VeriSign; are separate approaches for implementing single sign-on with federated identities across computer systems.

The new specs will be supported within both companies' product portfolios, including Windows Server and the Java Enterprise System. The companies plan to submit the technologies to a standards organization for ratification as industry standards, but did not release a timetable.

In addition to single sign-on technology, the two companies said they are collaborating on the development of a web services specification called WS-Management. Intel and other vendors are also part of the collaboration, which is defining a single protocol to meet management requirements spanning hardware devices, operating systems and applications.

Sun plans to implement WS-Management in its Solaris 10 OS, management service processors in its x64-based Sun Fire servers, and the Sun N1 management software tools, to provide interoperability across Solaris and Windows environments.

In addition, Sun has developed an implementation of the specification in the Java programming language and plans to release it to the open-source community.

Microsoft plans to ship WS-Management as a standard part of Windows Server 2003 R2.

The companies also announced that Sun has licensed Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol to implement it in the Sun Ray ultra-thin client product line in the near future. This would enable Sun Ray clients to access Windows Terminal Services running on Widows Server 2003. WTS enables remote access of applications running on Windows Server 2003 from a wide-range of devices, including those not running Windows.

Many analysts have praised the Sun-Microsoft alliance for providing interoperability between their products. One analyst with a contrary view is Jason Bloomberg, analyst for market researcher ZapThink. In an e-mail interview, he said the collaboration between the two companies "doesn't do anything to contradict the fact that Microsoft is the big gorilla in this relationship."

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