Face-off: Microsoft, trust and Web services

Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, recently detailed in a companywide e-mail from Bill Gates, represents the next step in the company's ongoing effort to create a computing experience that's fundamentally reliable and secure. It's a call to action for the entire technology industry, which, as we've seen with the SNMP vulnerability identified earlier this month by the CERT Coordination Center, shares in the challenge of making everything from individual chips to global Web services as secure as possible.

To be sure, we at Microsoft are the first to admit that we can do a better job of creating safer and more secure software and services. At Microsoft, we believe that such self-evaluation, along with a passion to push the envelope on technology and the experience we offer customers, is a key ingredient in our success.

This same passion and commitment can be seen in Microsoft's leadership in the world of Web services. Our efforts include the following:

-- Advancing critical industry standards such as XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI.

-- Co-founding, along with other industry leaders, such as Accenture, BEA Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Oracle and SAP, the Web Services Interoperability Organization (http://WS-I.org), a group chartered to provide our shared customers with a clear and consistent road map for creating and implementing interoperable Web services.

-- Giving developers tools such as Visual Studio .Net and the .Net framework, which make it easier to build upon these standards to create rich, secure applications and Web services.

This same customer focus is what drove us last fall to introduce a vision for a universal, or "federated," authentication system. In October, we released early drafts of some technical specifications that will serve as the foundation for this vision. Just as those in the banking industry worked together to create the ATM network that so many of us rely on today for a convenient banking experience, we see tremendous value in having a federated, trusted and universal network of authentication.

We believe deeply in this goal and continue to work with industry leaders, including members of the Liberty Alliance, to advance our shared vision of trusted interoperability and universal authentication on the Internet. Passport, Microsoft's implementation of an online authentication and single sign-in service, is operational today. Since going live in 1999, Passport has grown to 200 million active accounts and processes more than 3.5 billion authentications per month. The Liberty Alliance is working on future specifications upon which interoperable authentication services may be built. Consequently, we don't believe that Passport and what the Liberty Alliance is attempting to define are mutually exclusive.

Microsoft has been working on many fronts to advance this new era of trusted computing, from fixing the short-term issues we face today to undertaking the long-term research that will lead to the fundamentally trustworthy systems of tomorrow. This is the type of leadership that's required at this critical moment in our industry constructive action based on real technology solutions for customers, rather than rhetoric. That's what the industry and our customers want, and what Microsoft will continue to deliver.

Editor's note: This column was written at the request of Computerworld in response to McNealy's column. Brian Arbogast is vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s.Net Services Group.

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