Sun to release network identity suite

Sun Microsystems Inc. is set to release a package of software, hardware and services for managing the identity of users on the Internet or in a corporate network, laying the groundwork for its adoption of technology being developed by the Liberty Alliance Project.

Called the Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) Platform for Network Identity, the system can be used to manage the identity of users on a network and to set access privileges for applications, services and other resources, said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s chief strategy officer.

With a single sign-on, employees at an organization using the software could be authenticated and authorized to access certain services. For instance, Sun is using the system internally to manage access to its employee Web portal, retirement accounts and voicemail, as well as managing what buildings an employee is allowed to enter on Sun’s campuses.

“For the most part, historically those were disparate systems,” Schwartz said. “That was a nightmare for the CIO (chief information officer) who had to maintain all those different identity systems.”

In addition to corporations, Sun plans to offer the Sun ONE Platform for Network Identity to telecommunication service providers as a system for managing the identities of subscribers.

Future versions will incorporate authentication technology being developed by the Liberty Alliance Project. That effort is supported by a number of technology, banking and services companies, and is intended to let users visit various password-protected Web sites that support the technology without having to sign on each time.

The Sun ONE identity services, in conjunction with specifications being ironed out by the Liberty Alliance Project, is expected to compete with Microsoft Corp.’s Active Directory software and the software maker’s own single-sign on authentication service, called Passport, according to Jamie Lewis, CEO and research chair of Burton Group, an IT research company based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Having both the directory software and the identity services will be important in order for Sun to compete effectively in the market, which is also being addressed by a slew of smaller companies.

“If you look at the Sun ONE initiative and look at what they’re doing with Java to deliver Web services, these identity services are essential to making those strategies work,” Lewis said.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun will offer the network identity package in two editions: one for enterprise customers for use in a corporate network, and one for service provider customers for managing subscribers over the Internet.

The Enterprise Edition is designed to manage up to 10,000 online identities inside a firewall. It includes two Sun Fire 280R UltraSPARC III servers and a 72GB Sun StorEdge D2 storage product, along with preconfigured software including Solaris 8 and iPlanet Directory Server Access Management Edition 5, and 10 days of technical consulting, the company said. The Enterprise Edition starts at US$149,995, or about $15 per identity, Sun said.

The Internet Edition, designed to manage up to 250,000 online identities outside of a firewall, is similar but comes with two additional Sun Fire 280R UltraSPARC III servers and a 145GB Sun StorEdge D2 storage product. It starts at $999,995, or $3.90 per identity.

Sun didn’t announce any initial customers but said it anticipates interest from existing iPlanet Directory users. One potential customer is the State of Georgia, which uses the iPlanet Directory to manage the identities of all those listed in its Department of Motor Vehicles database.

“Sun, through its ownership of iPlanet products, has a substantial installed base of directory services customers,” Lewis of Burton Group said. “This is its effort to leverage that install base.”

Sun Microsystems of Canada in Markham, Ont., is at