Microsoft’s Crack at Federated Identity

Microsoft will be showing off their new federated identity software shortly – a service that will allow users to log in and then carry their identity from site to site, securely allowing businesses to extend applications and intranets to external clients. The technology won’t be available until Q3 2005 with the release of Windows Server 2003 R2.

Michael Stephenson, lead program manager for Windows Server 2003 said “Federated identity lets companies securely extend their applications to suppliers and external users… We are showing how a user at one site might log on to a portal and then they can enter a purchase order at another location without having to sign on again. Today it is very expensive to provide this type of functionality.”

MS’s previous attempt at federated identity, Passport, never quite realised its potential, and so it’s back to the drawing board.

There’s already a W3C standard for federated identity, but Microsoft, along with IBM, want to push the WS-Security specifications put forward by OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards).

Microsoft’s system will also be up against the Liberty Alliance set of open standards, led by their best pals Sun.

Federated identity is of importance to everyone – not only do you need to know what information is being held about you in your “ID passport” and what site and application owners do with that information, but that your personal details are secure and cannot be compromised.

Liberty Alliance

Microsoft and IBM’s original white paper

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?