Vendors step up ID management

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"Constant activity"

Agency officials facing the challenge of managing secure access to information and applications located across a wide range of internal and external computing systems could get some much-needed assistance from recent developments in the identity management arena.

Last week, officials at Oblix Inc., a maker of identity-based security solutions, and Plumtree Software Inc., a leading developer of Web portals, announced an expanded alliance to improve security for portals. They are working to address the identity management and access issues that occur as agencies and organizations extend their portals to include customers, partners and suppliers.

Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems Inc. recently released three identity management offerings that feature technology the company acquired from the acquisition of Waveset Technologies Inc. last year.

"Identity management is on the upswing, but there is still confusion about what identity management means to everyone," said Pete Lindstrom, director of research at Spire Security LLC, a Malvern, Pa.-based consulting firm.

During the past year, there has been a shift in approaches to security away from focusing on threats coming from outside corporate networks and toward managing employee access and internal threats, Lindstrom said. "Identity management plays into that [transition] well."

Basically, identity management focuses on the management of user permissions and profiles across an enterprise, ensuring that personnel or partners have access only to the accounts or applications they are authorized to view.

To secure portals, Plumtree will resell Oblix's SHAREid federated identity servers and COREid suites for identity management and Web access control, according to Jay Simons, director of applications at Plumtree.

Agency officials can use SHAREid to connect user identities to external Web-based applications through an existing portal. For instance, employees could log on to hosted applications once and access multiple applications to book corporate travel or manage workers' benefits.

Officials can also use SHAREid to let customers and partners access information on their portals without having to assume responsibility for managing and updating customer and partner user profiles, said Beth Dabagian, senior director of technology alliances at Oblix.

They can achieve this task by installing COREid software at their main corporate site where they've deployed the Plumtree portal software. Partners or suppliers would have the SHAREid server at their sites and could handle their own user administration chores, she said. "Companies see the value of not having to administer all of the identities of [their partners'] users," so some organizations will probably buy SHAREid licenses for partners, Dabagian said.

Sun officials introduced the Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition, a central repository for storing enterprise identity information that includes built-in fail-over, load balancing, security and integration with Microsoft Corp. Active Directory.

The Java System Access Manager will help administrators manage secure access to internal and external Web-based resources.

Sun officials also unveiled the Java Identity System Manager, which allows administrators

to manage identity permissions and profiles and also offers services for synchronizing identities enterprisewide.

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