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Security

Microsoft launches digital ID software

Microsoft announces new software designed to automate the process of managing user identity information on corporate networks.

Microsoft on Wednesday announced new software designed to automate the process of managing user identity information on corporate networks.

The company said Microsoft Identity Integration Server (MIIS) 2003, which will be available to customers next month, will help businesses establish, manage and eventually delete user account information more easily.

In many cases, corporate workers have dozens of individual user names and passwords for different business applications. The goal of MIIS 2003 is to gather all that information and to unify the different identities, the company said.

"The challenge for customers is: How do they get that single view of the user across the enterprise?" said Michael Stephenson, a lead product manager in Microsoft's Windows Server unit.

The move also is part of a broader strategy for Microsoft, which wants to position itself at the center of user authentication processes, both within businesses and in Internet e-commerce transactions between companies.

The software giant also hopes the new software will drive sales of its Windows Server 2003 operating system, which is needed to run MIIS 2003. In the corporate authentication software market, Microsoft competes against IBM, Novell, Sun Microsystems and other software makers.

With MIIS, Microsoft is trying to target business users on internal networks. Its existing Passport service is designed to authenticate Web users, particularly for online sales.

The MIIS product is an expansion of the company's existing Meta Directory product, which helped synchronize the information in various directories but was not designed to manage authentication tasks such as setting up new accounts and doling out passwords.

The new software allows companies to create a variety of identities as soon as a new employee is hired and added to a human resources database. Stephenson said it is also important to automate the task of removing identities once an employee leaves. Too often, he said, weeks or months pass before all of an ex-employee's identities are removed from a corporate network.

"This is really designed to reduce some of the security risk," Stephenson said.

MIIS 2003 can gather identity data in 17 different formats, including from IBM's Informix, DB2 and Lotus Notes programs, Oracle's 8i and 9i databases, Novell's eDirectory software and the LDAP directory exchange profile. Microsoft is working with other companies such as Oblix and Open Networks to provide authentication for Web applications that run on Apache and Sun's Web server software, among others.

The new software includes tools that allow individual users to change their own passwords using a secured Web page. Stephenson said an estimated one-third of corporate help-desk requests are for identity-related tasks such as password resets.

Although MIIS 2003 runs only on Windows, Stephenson said the software can gather directory information from software that runs on other operating systems such as Unix and Linux.

Microsoft also is releasing a series of guidelines, developed with accounting and consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, that tell companies how best to handle identity issues on their corporate networks.

Microsoft said the Identity Integration Server 2003 software is priced at $24,999 per server processor running the software.