IBM Joins Liberty Alliance


IBM has agreed to join the Liberty Alliance as a board
member, lodging a stepping stone to a bridge between two organizations that
work on distributed computing methods.


In the agreement, IBM plans to support Liberty’s federated identity
specifications across its Tivoli identity management product line. Karla
Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM, will serve as the
liaison between IBM and Liberty until IBM installs a technical member on the
board.


The move is significant in a sometimes fractured sector for Web services
, an evolving paradigm for application-to-application
communication.


IBM, Microsoft, BEA and others independently develop specifications for a
broader Web services stack, now widely known as WS-*. For example,
WS-Security, which was developed by Microsoft, IBM and other major vendors
and is now shepherded by OASIS, may overlap to a degree with work in
Liberty. The World Wide Web Consortium also blesses specs in the WS-* stack.


The Microsoft- and IBM-backed Web Services Interoperability Consortium
(WS-I) and the Liberty Alliance, supported by Sun Microsystems and AOL, have
also been known to perform similar work on such issues as identity
management and security.


Liberty has created a comprehensive roadmap for single sign-on
functionality, allowing Web services from any computing device. WS-I has
recently published a Basic Security Profile Version 1.0 for secure sharing
and interoperability among Web services.

Norsworthy insists Big Blue’s joining Liberty makes sense at this
time, and that ultimately the best recipe for customers would be a
convergence of the various federated identity standards.


After all, IBM is already deploying products from its Tivoli line, which are
interoperable with certain Liberty specifications, including a deal to provide
single sign-on capabilities for mobile communications vendor Orange, a
subsidiary of Liberty backer France Telecom.


“Once we get to the point where customers need us to support those
solutions, we’re going to do it,” Norsworthy said. “When you think about
this whole Web services journey we’ve been on, customers have solutions
built on Microsoft platforms, on WebSphere, on BEA — and they’re looking at
all of us saying it can’t take months to build solutions that connect across
these. The fact that they happen to be built on different platforms can’t be
an inhibitor.”


ZapThink analyst Ronald Schmelzer agreed that the Web services industry is
heading toward convergence.


“What motivated IBM to do this was that they listened to their customer
demands, and a large customer had demanded Liberty Alliance,” Schmelzer told
internetnews.com. “Rather than hem-and-haw, they took this as an
opportunity to take a major step in the direction of adopting Liberty
Alliance, and they’re doing so, giving credence when they say that they are
following open specs. So, it’s a great move for them.”


Norsworthy said IBM’s involvement with Liberty will not interfere
with its work with the WS-* stack. The Armonk, N.Y., company is rolling out
support for the WS-Security roadmap specs in its products.


Schmelzer addressed this point: “What remains to be seen is how other specs
and standards bodies and groups (like the WS-I) will adopt, or not, the
Liberty Alliance specs. Clearly at some point the federated identity specs
will have to converge, and it’s not clear if the WS-* stack or Liberty
Alliance spec will win out here. It’s really up to customers and what they
demand.”


Regardless of what side of the fence they are on, or whether they reside in
the Java or .NET camps, software vendors believe the
majority of revenues derived from software will be in Web services, and
their more broad ancestors, service-oriented architectures .


Research supports this conclusion: IDC believes revenues for Web services
infrastructure software will balloon to $4.2 billion by 2008.

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