RealTime IT News

Who Are You? ID Purveyors to Collaborate

In a move intended to enable competing identity management technologies to interoperate, a new forum will hold a key meeting in San Francisco on June 26 to find out first hand what users want.

In fact, all parties agree it's a necessary move but the question is how long will it take to bear its first fruit? The answer: possibly as early as the end of the year.

Named the Concordia Project, the forum aims to provide a neutral ground for competing identity management players to communicate with each other and with customers in a venue that looks toward tearing down barriers to interoperability between their systems.

Among the vendor participants in the project are representatives from Liberty Alliance, Microsoft  and OpenID.

The Concordia Project quietly originated earlier this year, at the RSA conference in February, in what officials referred to as a "soft launch."

However, the meeting scheduled for the end of the month as part of the pre-conference activities at the Burton Group's Catalyst IT leadership event will be the first public announcement of the forum's formation, Roger Sullivan, president of Liberty Alliance's management board, told internetnews.com.

Initially started by the Liberty Alliance, the Concordia Project describes itself as "a global, cross-industry initiative formed by members of the identity management community to drive harmonization and interoperability among various identity initiatives and protocols."

Sullivan acknowledged that there has been a long-running, and sometimes hostile, competition between Microsoft and the Liberty Alliance in regards to the two players' technologies, but said that the purveyors of the three technologies really have no choice. Users are going to deploy all three, so customers will insist that they interoperate.

"If not, it will be a mess," Sullivan added.

Comparing the need for identity mechanisms on the Web to identity in the real world, Sullivan said that the inability of different identity systems to communicate with each other seamlessly will impede the commercial growth of the Internet.

"This is an essential turning point because if we don't come together to make this work, we'll end up with three different technology silos," Sullivan added.

That is why it is so important that the three purveyors collaborate.

"We won't reach the full potential of the Internet if you can't streamline interactions," Gerry Gebel, vice president and service director for identity and privacy strategies at the Burton Group, told internetnews.com.

In fact, it is not an accident that the Concordia Project meeting will take place at the Catalyst Conference – a user-focused event that does not allow vendors as sponsors. The idea is to provide a recognized neutral ground. "It's a logical location to hold this kind of meeting [because] vendors already view it as a forum where they can go and work together," Gebel said, adding that Catalyst has a history of hosting interoperability demos.

The first step is set to come at the meeting at the end of June, when five large customers will sit down with the three leading purveyors and describe their "use case" scenarios of how they use or will use identity management technologies and how they need to work together.

Those customers are veritable giants -- America Online, Boeing, General Motors, the Canadian province of British Columbia, and the U.S. General Services Administration.

Concordia Project's immediate goal is to provide initial tools and instructions that will enable users to achieve interoperability among different ID systems for these use cases by the end of the year, according to a Concordia Project statement.

"Our immediate objectives are that we may be able to identify some small changes to our or another technology that we think we could get done in six to nine months," Sullivan.

However, he cautioned that a company like Microsoft, which is working to integrate a lot of different technology pieces into a larger whole that also includes identity management, may have longer delivery horizons than can be achieved that quickly.

A Microsoft spokesperson was not available to comment. However, Microsoft announced at the RSA conference in February its intent to make its Windows CardSpace identity management metasystem interoperate with OpenID 2.0, an open source user-driven digital identity framework.

"It's already happening because the purveyors know they've got to work together," Burton Group's Gebel said.