Sun and Microsoft link up on single sign-on

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft have joined up to develop a single sign-on system for users.

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft have joined up to develop a single sign-on system for users.

Both companies had previously touted their own single sign-on systems to allow users to access any authorised application or network over the web.

Sun had promoted its Liberty system and Microsoft promoted its own Passport solution. But neither solution has seen much take-up by users.

However, both companies have now agreed to develop a single sign-on based on Sun’s Liberty standard and widely supported WS-Web service architectures.

The joint decision comes out of the 10-year technical collaboration agreement the companies signed last spring, which also saw Microsoft pay Sun almost $2bn (£1.08bn) to settle an anti-trust case and patent disputes between the suppliers.

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said, "In the first year, we've moved from the courtroom to the computer lab. Now we're moving from the lab to the market."

Sun chief executive officer Scott McNealy said, “A single sign-on experience between the Solaris-based operating system, Sun Java Enterprise System and Microsoft Windows Server has been customers' top request. This is just the beginning of a long list of projects we're working on.”

The companies have published 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 new specifications enable browser-based web single sign-on between security domains that use Liberty ID-FF and WS-Federation standards. Products that support the Web SSO MEX protocol and the Web SSO Interop Profile will enable companies to provide users with an improved single sign-on from their web browsers. 

The companies will support the new specifications within their products, including Microsoft Windows Server and Sun Java Enterprise System.

The pair have invited third-party participation in the further development of the draft specifications, and plan to submit the final specs to a standards body, yet to be selected.

The first products supported by the single sign-on specifications are not expected until next year at the earliest.

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