iPlanet adds single sign-on to directory software

Sun Microsystems Inc. Tuesday released a new version of its iPlanet Directory Server that includes a central service for identifying and authenticating users in the directory.

The iPlanet Directory Server is software that provides a central repository for managing policies in a network of users. It is a component of the iPlanet product line of servers, which is part of iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions, a Sun subsidiary formed through an alliance with America Online Inc.'s Netscape division.

The Access Management Edition, now available for shipping, adds a Web-based single sign-on service that allows users to sign on to the directory and use Web-based applications and services without having to re-authenticate each time.

The new server software will be the home of future technology developed by the Liberty Alliance Project, an industry-wide effort to create a common technology for authenticating users on the Internet, Sun said.

"It will be the first place Liberty Alliance technology will be employed by Sun," said Marge Breya, vice president of Sun ONE (Open Network Environment), a division at Sun that ties together the breadth of its software products. "We're ensuring a smooth path (for the directory) to become Liberty-enabled next year."

However, what that technology will be and how it will fit into the Directory Server is yet to be determined. The Liberty Alliance is still in the process of gathering member companies to develop a technology that will allow multiple authentication services to communicate with one another.

"We expect it to be a lightweight technology," Breya said. "We don't think it's going to be that complicated to add on to the directory since it has to be lightweight."

America Online and a number of major Web sites such as those of American Express Co. and United Air Lines Inc. have agreed to include Liberty Alliance's common technology with their authentication services when the technology becomes available. Microsoft Corp., which has its own authentication service called Passport, has said it is considering joining the effort.

In the meantime, Microsoft has been adding support for Passport into several of its software products, including its Windows Messenger software. Microsoft has also said it plans to add Passport to future releases of its .Net Enterprise server software.

The iPlanet Directory Server includes administrative features for managing the applications and information that can be accessed by employees, customers, partners and suppliers, the company said. The iPlanet Directory competes against Microsoft's Active Directory software and Novell's Directory Services software, according to Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. Sun says it has sold about 600 million licenses of the software to date.

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