Sun releases Liberty-enabled software

Sun Microsystems will release new software Monday that takes advantage of the Liberty technology for simplifying the process of signing on to multiple Web sites.

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Sun Microsystems will release new software Monday that takes advantage of the Liberty technology for simplifying the process of signing on to multiple Web sites.

Sun's Identity Server 6.0 software product is generally available now, and later this quarter will be available bundled with Sun hardware, said John Barco, senior product marketing manager for the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) software suite.

The Liberty Alliance Project is working on a software standard that permits "single sign-on," in which a person who logs on to one Web site doesn't have to re-enter a username and password for an affiliated site. The technology is based on Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), which handles single sign-on chores, with enhancements for tasks such as setting up ways for two Web sites to register a single person.

Sun is best-known for its servers, but the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is trying to persuade customers that part of its value lies in the software it integrates to run with computers. To hasten that effort, Sun is subsidizing software sales incentives.

Liberty allies released the first version of Liberty in July, with Sun announcing a test version of its Identity Server software immediately afterward.

Wells Fargo has been using the test version to handle authentication on several parts of its online banking site, Barco said. Liberty makes sure a customer signed on to the online banking system, for example, can get to the bill payment system or the brokerage system without having to log in to each one.

Sun expects customers initially will use Liberty to join together separate services within the same company. Later, Sun believes, companies will join with business partners--for example, an airline and car rental company--to ease login hassles.

Sun launched Liberty in September 2001 as a way to thwart Microsoft's Passport authentication service, but the alliance and Microsoft have now achieved something of a detente.

The impetus behind the program came from Visa, Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy said in an earlier interview. The Liberty Alliance Project soon won support from many major companies, including AOL Time Warner, United Airlines, Fidelity Investments, Vodafone and Visa.

Sun is selling versions of Identity Server that run on its own Solaris version of Unix and on Microsoft Windows. A version running on Linux is expected midway through 2003, Barco said.

Through a project called Orion, Sun is working to release its various versions of Sun ONE software simultaneously, Barco added.

The software uses Sun's directory server, which is used for tasks such as storing large numbers of username-password pairs.

For customers that already have purchased the directory software, the Identity Server product costs $8 per person for small numbers of users and $3 per person for 100,000 users. Without the directory server, those costs rise to $10 and $5 per person, respectively. That pricing is the same as for the previous version of Identity Server.