Sun, Microsoft Get Closer

UPDATED: Sun Microsystems and Microsoft are
working on new specifications that would allow Web single sign-on between
their operating systems.

The companies, whose goal is to help Windows and Java work together, have
also inked a licensing deal to allow Windows to run on Sun hardware and
teamed up to manage Web services . Plans to make their
service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategies interoperable are also
forthcoming, company officials said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Sun CEO Scott McNealy promised as much
during a press event to announce the progress in the companies’ 10-year
technical agreement, which began a year ago.

First, Microsoft and Sun have jointly developed the Web Single Sign-On
Metadata Exchange (Web SSO MEX) protocol and Web Single Sign-On
Interoperability Profile (Web SSO Interop Profile) specifications. The rules will
trigger browser-based single sign-on between security domains that use
Liberty ID-FF and WS-Federation.

Products that support the Web SSO MEX Protocol and the Web SSO Interop
Profile will enable companies to provide users with improved single
sign-on capabilities from their browsers.

The specs, which will likely either be submitted to the World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C) or OASIS, form the basis for how the companies provide
identity management between each other’s products.

Microsoft and Sun will support the new specs in Microsoft Windows Server and
Sun’s Solaris operating system and Java Enterprise System. The companies’
officials demonstrated how their security software works
together, granting users single sign-on access between Windows Server and

In April 2004, Sun accepted
a $1.95 billion settlement to end its legal war with Microsoft. The vendors
also pledged to promote interoperability to help customers, including
developers, IT managers and end users, meet their goals of making computer
systems easier to use.

“A year ago you could say we were moving from the courtroom and entering
the computer lab,” Ballmer said, summing up the rivals’ progress. “Twelve months
later I think we’re poised, thanks to the work of hundreds of engineers on
both sides, to leave the computer lab and enter the market place together.”

McNealy said the developments are the fruit of joint customers who provided
a list to both vendors of about 20 separate items, with single sign-on and
identity management architecture interoperability as the core issue.

“Everybody’s dealing with [Sarbanes-Oxley, section 404] compliance
and trying to reduce complexity and drive security into all parts of their
organization,” McNealy said.

“The bottom line is that you have Solaris and Windows playing nice in a
unique and quite unexpected way across the board. Because the operating
system is the boundary system to everything, [Solaris and Windows] are the
two critical components.”

McNealy said Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos and Microsoft’s chief software
architect are working on how to create greater ties between each company’s
SOA plans. Sun currently is working on a project for SOA called
Kitty Hawk; Microsoft calls its chief SOA plan Indigo.

Progress Doesn’t Stop with Specs

The agreement extends to new licensing agreements.

Ballmer said Microsoft and Sun entertained requests from several customers
to create ways for end users to use applications that run on .NET and Sun
systems. For example, users may want to use a Sun Ray thin client terminal
access applications that run on Solaris and Windows.

Users may now do so through a licensing agreement in which Sun Ray thin-client machines now can access Windows Terminal Services on Windows Server
2003. Users can also now use a Windows Server to tap into Sun’s storage

Ballmer said Sun’s recent purchase
of Tarantella facilitates that interoperability.

Microsoft and Sun are also working to promote interoperability between their
operating systems and management products. The companies are collaborating
on the development of the WS-Management Web services specification.

Backed by Microsoft, Intel, Sun and others, the spec helps companies manage
hardware devices and software. Sun will implement WS-Management in the
Solaris 10 operating system, management service processors in its x64-based
Sun Fire servers and Sun N1 management software.

Sun has created an implementation of WS-Management in Java programming
language that it plans to release to the open source community.
WS-Management will also ship in Windows Server 2003 starting with R2.

Ballmer and other Microsoft officials demonstrated
WS-Management between Microsoft software and Sun servers last month.

In another arrangement, the Sun Fire x64 Opteron server and Sun Java
Workstation lines are now certified on and compatible with Windows software.

EDS, Accenture and NEC are providing interoperability between Sun and
Microsoft products for their customers.

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