• United States

Working together for a common cause

Apr 30, 20033 mins
Access ControlEnterprise Applications

* Latest moves by OASIS and Liberty Alliance

Last July, a number of companies got together at the annual Catalyst conference to demonstrate interoperability between their implementations of version 1 of the Security Assertions Markup Language. At the recent RSA security conference in San Francisco, many of the same companies demonstrated their interoperability using the Liberty Alliance specification Version 1.1, which was recently renamed the Identity Federation Framework.

The ID-FF was recently handed over to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) where it will be used by the technical committee that developed the SAML specification. Sound confusing?

The committee (officially titled OASIS Security Services Technical Committee) created the original SAML specification that was demonstrated last summer. The ad-hoc Liberty Alliance took that spec and made it the basis for information exchange for its federated identity technology.

Numerous companies have announced products supporting the Liberty spec and those were demonstrated at the RSA conference. Now Liberty has given its first spec to the group considering changes to the SAML spec as a way of fostering discussion along the lines that Liberty wishes the SAML definitions to take. Since the OASIS group is primarily made up of technology companies while the Liberty Alliance is preponderantly nontechnology businesses, that makes sense.

The RSA interoperability demonstration was also interesting because it showcased groups of companies working together to deliver a (for want of a better term) “solution.”

For example, provisioning and identity management leader Waveset teamed up with Phaos, developer of the “Liberty Toolkit,” XML building blocks, and Mycroft, the identity consulting organization that undertook the architecting and building of the overall solution including the user interface. From start to finish, the project took less than a month.

It is heartening to see that a demonstration of federated identity management could be achieved by a federation of companies. The “not invented here” syndrome needs to be laid to rest as more and more open interfaces appear to allow greater collaboration among potential rivals who, nonetheless, can join together to create solutions that users need when they need them. IBM and Microsoft take note.

Nimble organizations that know they do what they do very well should have no fears about joining with like-minded enterprises to both foster open standards and to bring workable products to market when the customers want to use them. Security, ease-of-use, interoperability, multiple transports and protocols – users needs are many and varied. Only by cooperating with other specialty technology firms can any company hope to be able to fill the need of a large customer base.

Good news all around, I think. I can hardly wait to see what these folks will demonstrate at this year’s Catalyst conference.