Microsoft IT goes live with its Geneva identity platform

Microsoft cuts over its internal network today

Two days after shipping the second beta of its newest identity platform, Microsoft's internal IT department is rolling out the software corporate wide.

Geneva, Microsoft's identity platform for the cloud, will support 59 identity applications that Microsoft maintains with 29 business partners.

The federated applications include a payroll services and an online company store.

The company's IT department will change DNS records today on its internal network so all its identity federations are handled through its Geneva server environment rather than the current five Active Directory Federation Servers (ADFS) the company runs, according to Brian Puhl, a technology architect for Microsoft IT.

Microsoft has nearly 410,000 computers and 165,000 users on its network.

Puhl laid out the plan Tuesday during a session at Microsoft's annual TechEd conference. He said the cut over initially moves the company from ADFS 1.0 to ADFS 2.0 in Geneva, but that over time Microsoft will take advantage of streamlined support for its Live ID technology, incorporate CardSpace-based identity and roll-out claims-aware applications that are in development at Microsoft. (See graphic of Microsoft's Geneva architecture.)

"Geneva is a lot more than ADFS 2.0," Puhl said.

Geneva was released in public beta for the first time Monday and Microsoft plans to make the software generally available at the end of 2009.

The identity platform's foundation is the claims-based access model and Security Token Service (STS) technology that Microsoft has been developing over the past few years as part of its industry effort to create a single identity system based on standard protocols.

Geneva is made up of the Geneva Server, formerly called Active Directory Federation Services 2.0; Geneva CardSpace Client, a smaller and faster version of the identity client now available with Vista; and the Geneva Framework, which was formerly code-named Zermatt.

Also part of the platform is the Microsoft Service Connector, the Microsoft Federation Gateway and the .Net Access Control Service, which are designed to create a sort of identity backbone and connection to the cloud.

Microsoft plans to tap that backbone to link to cloud services, including its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

Puhl said Microsoft will move a number of its internal Exchange users into the cloud and onto Microsoft's Exchange Online Services, a hosted e-mail platform.

"Now we can start to leverage CardSpace and InfoCards," Puhl said.

He said today Microsoft has zero claims-aware applications, but plans are for that to change dramatically.

Puhl also said Microsoft will federate Live IDs with its Geneva infrastructure to support access to cloud services.

In addition Microsoft will centralize its authorization data into a policy store, he said, which will help with management, auditing and compliance.

"We won't have all this [Wednesday], but we have our targets," he said. Those targets include moving line-of-business applications to a cloud environment based on Azure, the cloud OS Microsoft introduced last year. The first application to move will be an internal auction site Microsoft maintains.

"Azure gives us lots of flexibility with on-demand scale," Puhl said.

In terms of security, Puhl said Microsoft IT has learned to treat its Geneva servers like domain controllers and that Geneva administrators are akin to domain administrators. He said users should pay attention to certificate management including token signing to protect from man-in-the-middle attacks and configure SSL validation on end-points.

Puhl said Microsoft's Geneva servers runs on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition and hardware configured with two 3GHz 64-bit processors and 4GB of RAM. In addition, all the Geneva servers are virtual machines.

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