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Putting trust in Web services

VeriSign partners with Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and other technology makers to provide security for Web services.

VeriSign on Tuesday partnered with Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and other technology makers to provide security for Web services.

VeriSign's new software tools, unveiled on Tuesday, allow companies to add authentication services for online bill payment or financial data exchange between companies, for instance, to Web services applications.

The software companies are supporting VeriSign's effort by building interfaces into their e-business infrastructure software, so their business customers can tap into VeriSign's security services. Microsoft, Sun and IBM, the largest proponents of Web services, can use the back-end security services provided by the company through their competing Web services initiatives, said VeriSign. Other companies backing VeriSign's technology include BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard and WebMethods.

Analysts say VeriSign is well-positioned to play a large role in the emerging--and much-hyped--Web services market, given its role as a provider of Internet infrastructure software, such as its Web authentication and security expertise, as well as its dominance in Internet domain-name registration.

"There isn't a market for Web services yet, but now is the time to start bringing trust to Web services," said analyst Joe Marino, of Current Analysis. VeriSign is "covering pretty much the full gamut of everything needed, from being able to have identity, authentication and transaction services."

With Web services in its infancy, VeriSign won't see immediate financial benefits from its technology and partnership announcements, but they could prove fruitful in the long term, analysts say.

Web services is a method for building software that allows companies with different computing systems to interact and conduct transactions. Analysts see Web services gaining popularity in the coming years as a more efficient way of building software, and all major software makers are planning Web services tools and other products.

VeriSign is essentially grafting its existing product offerings to Web services, Marino added.

One of the major challenges to implementing Web services, according to analysts, is establishing secure identities online. VeriSign has built a stable of software tools and services that enable it to be a large provider of Net-based identification technology. That could be key as software companies race to provide the technology used to build services that consumers can use over the Web.

Anil Chakravarthy, VeriSign's director of business planning, said VeriSign's offerings are threefold, starting with managing the identity of a Web service. A company, for example, can advertise its Web service to potential customers through a public Web services directory. VeriSign will manage the identity of the Web service, such as providing potential customers direct links to a company, so the two can do business, he said.

VeriSign, through its "Digital Trust Services Framework" will offer authentication and authorization services that will ensure that businesses and people are who they purport to be, that businesses have good credit ratings, and that people within a company have the authority to make a purchasing decision. And thirdly, the company will offer transaction services such as bill payment, Chakravarthy said. The framework includes blueprints and tools for in-house software developers and service providers to connect their software to VeriSign's services.

VeriSign also plans to offer integration with telephony services, which will allow authorized people to make purchases and payments via cell phones, he added.

VeriSign's framework supports security standards such as XKMS (XML Key Management Specification) and SAML (Security Assertions Markup Language).

IBM will support XKMS and SAML in its software family to bolster security in Web services, but Big Blue is also supporting VeriSign's framework to give more security options to its customers, an IBM representative said.

News.com's Ben Heskett contributed to this report.