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ForgeRock Shines on Sun's Legacy Identity

Are one company's castoffs another company's treasure?

Open source startup ForgeRock this week is celebrating its first year in business, thanks in part to technology giant Oracle.

The core of ForgeRock identity offerings were born at Sun Microsystems, which has since been acquired by Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL). ForgeRock has managed to take a number of open source technologies started at Sun, including the OpenSSO single sign on and identity platform, and position them as the foundation of a growing business. According to ForgeRock, the technologies that it is now building and evolving might not have had a future with Oracle, which has created an opportunity for the startup.

Simon Phipps, chief strategy officer at ForgeRock, noted that businesses have been expressing a keen interest in Sun's identity middleware platform. Phipps previously served as the chief open source officer at Sun.

"Over the last year, something like three quarters of the companies that have approached us had evaluated the software and were ready to put it into production, but then discovered there was no way to get a subscription for it," Phipps said. "So we've met their needs with a subscription that includes both a service-level agreement and a guarantee of ongoing development."

Phipps added that companies had downloaded the identity software as open source technology in order to do proof-of-concept testing. He noted that the other 25 percent of ForgeRock's clients are former Sun customers that found that Oracle's offering didn't match their needs.

ForgeRock now runs a number of projects, including the OpenAM authentication and federation solution. OpenAM can be integrated with OpenDJ as the LDAP store. ForgeRock also has the OpenIDM project, an identity provisioning system. Phipps noted that businesses can opt to use any one of the projects alone or together, depending on their needs and requirements.

In the case of OpenDJ, Phipps noted that the project is now entirely run by ForgeRock committers. He added that Oracle still has the original project, named OpenDS.

OpenIDM, on the other hand, is ForgeRock's own development and isn't based on technology inherited from Sun.

"What happened there is that Sun was about to release a project in that space and it was canceled at the last minute," Phipps said. "Customers that had been expecting that project approached us to build the functionality that they had been expecting to be delivered."

ForgeRock is now also expanding with the acquisition of technology and personnel from privately-held ApexIdentity. Phipps noted that the ApexIdentity had been working on an earlier version of OpenSSO, and was focused on Web identity with Oauth.

"We already had some Oauth 1.0 support in OpenAM, and now we'll be implementing Oauth 2.0 in OpenAM," he said.

Overall, Phipps is pleased with the progress that ForgeRock has made in its first year both in terms of technology and business growth.

"My personal goal here is to prove that you can have an open source business that is profitable," Phipps. "Having principles and having profit are not mutually exclusive."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.