IBM has signed a deal with France Télécom's mobile division to create a single sign-on service that will allow some 50 million mobile phone customers to securely access different websites and mobile services by logging in just once.
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IBM's deal with Orange uses IBM software and web services to communicate identity information over disparate networks.
Orange said that by connecting its system using web services, its various subsidiaries and third-party content partners, such as online banks and instant messaging and e-mail providers, will be able to access its network to offer customers new services quickly. Additionally, it will save its partners the cost of running and managing their own identity accounts, the carrier said.
The deal is an important one because it demonstrates high-level integration among system operators, said IDC research analyst Lars Vestergaard.
"The mobile enterprise market needs some extra effort; it needs to show the benefits and effectiveness gained from integration, and this looks really, really good," Vestergaard said.
The single sign-on service is clearly aimed at enterprise users and will give both companies an advantage in that they will be pushing each other's offerings to their customers.
However, the analyst cautioned against IBM making any exclusive deals for this type of service, saying that it is important for the company to partner with other operators such as Vodafone and T-Mobile to show that it can bring a new tangible, enterprise application to the wider mobile market.
"It's important that they document and formalise the offering but there is danger in making it exclusive. There have been too many issues with mobile services and this is a chance to offer an intuitive and easily accessible service with back-end integration to enterprise customers," Vestergaard said.
IBM is using its WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Everyplace Access and IBM Tivoli Access Manager software to provide the sign-on service.
The software complies with the Liberty 1.1 web services specification for single sign-on put forth by the Liberty Alliance Project. The use of the Liberty specification is being touted as a vote of confidence for the federated network identity consortium.
The project represents the largest deployment of that particular specification so far, a Liberty Alliance representative said. The Liberty 1.1 spec was ratified in January of 2003.
Although IBM does not count itself among Liberty's roughly 150 industry members, the company was recently awarded the "Liberty Alliance Interoperable" mark in conformance testing. IBM said that the project underscores its commitment to open standards.
Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service