Sun products to get a taste of Liberty

The Liberty Alliance Project, spawned by Sun Microsystems last year, will be the foundation of a new set of products the company plans to begin selling next month.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--The Liberty Alliance Project, spawned by Sun Microsystems last year, will be the foundation of a new set of products Sun plans to begin selling in March.

Sun will start selling a collection of servers, software and services that together will let customers adopt the technology behind the Liberty Alliance Project, which Sun launched in September, Chief Strategy Officer Jonathan Schwartz said at Sun's annual conference for financial analysts.

"In March, we'll be rolling out a network identity system," Schwartz said. "Liberty equals revenue to us."

Liberty is a system to manage digital identity, governing actions such as authenticating a computer user, determining what computing services he or she is permitted to use, and controlling what personal information two companies may share. Schwartz leads the project, which since its unveiling has acquired a prestigious partner list including airlines, banks, credit card companies and AOL Time Warner.

Liberty, though not yet even a specification, competes with Microsoft's existing Passport system.

Microsoft has said it's possible it may join Liberty, if it isn't a Microsoft-bashing group. But in a presentation Thursday, Schwartz didn't let up on Sun's traditional Microsoft criticism.

Under Passport, Schwartz said, "One company mandates a standard, operates the network service, harvests all personal and business data, and (eventually) starts imposing tariffs."

Microsoft likely would disagree with the characterization. For one thing, it's been taking steps to open up Passport so other services could interoperate with it.

The forthcoming Sun product will also include help from Sun business partners who integrate identity systems with customers' existing software. The system ultimately will be able to work with company databases of about 25,000 users to full-bore Internet applications that have a million customers.

see special report: Web services: The new buzz Keeping track of customers' identities is a problem for big companies, said Mark Tolliver, president of Sun's iPlanet suite of business software. These large companies store customer information in multiple databases--for example, one for billing, another for support contracts and another for online account access.

Sun's system for dealing with this situation gave the company a way to sell products to the Royal Bank of Canada, which Tolliver said had been a staunch IBM customer. "We hadn't done a whole lot of business with Royal Bank of Canada until we went there with a proposition of single unified identity across their 12 million customers," Tolliver said.

Sun's iPlanet software is being Liberty-enabled, the company said in December.