Liberty Alliance enters new phase

Liberty Alliance Project

An alliance of organizations working to develop standards for electronically managing identity data across enterprises and agencies is moving into the second phase of its efforts to simplify the sign-on process.

The Liberty Alliance Project, a consortium of more than 160 organizations formed to develop open standards for network identity, demonstrated this week how products incorporating Liberty specifications can work together to simplify the process of signing on to enterprise networks and resources.

The public interoperability event at the RSA conference in San Francisco this week brought together 20 of the industry's leading hardware, software, mobile device and service companies. The event showcased how Liberty's Phase 1 specifications can be used in four business scenarios.

The specifications are designed to enable users to log on to a network once to access multiple services that they are authorized to use as well as simplify the management of user credentials across multiple systems.

Liberty Alliance specifications could play a key role in helping federal agencies authenticate the identity of individuals and organizations that want to conduct business with the government using the Internet. Last month, the General Services Administration and the Defense Department's Defense Manpower Data Center underscored the alliance's growing importance by becoming members.

Industry experts say the alliance appears to be on the right track and is gaining momentum.

Standards efforts normally go through three phases, said Dan Blum, senior vice president and research director at the Burton Group, a consulting firm:

* A standards organization develops specifications.

* The organization conducts interoperability tests among vendor products that incorporate the standards.

* Mass deployment of those products.

The alliance "is moving well into the second phase," Blum said.

At the RSA show, vendors demonstrated how users can be properly authenticated and given permission to access resources in settings such as business-to-consumer communication over broadband, business-to-consumer via mobile phones, business-to-employee and business-to-business, said Simon Nicholson, chairman of business and marketing with the Liberty Alliance and manager of strategic alliances at Sun Microsystems Inc. The demonstration also showed how Liberty-enabled products can work together for secure messaging.

The alliance has conducted three interoperability tests since the first specifications were released in July 2002, Nicholson noted, adding that the interoperability demonstrations at the show were successful.

Also at the show, the Liberty Alliance released new draft specifications and privacy and security guidelines to help in the development of identity-based Web services.

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