Sun needles Microsoft over Passport interoperability

At a panel discussion about online authentication systems featuring representatives from Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., the gloves stayed on until the last few minutes, when a pointed question from the audience about Microsoft's definition of "interoperability" finally sparked debate between the rival architects of Passport and the Liberty Alliance Project.

Microsoft doesn't expect identity and authentication services to be the provenance of any one company, its spokesman maintained throughout the discussion, held Friday here at Jupiter Media Metrix Inc.'s Financial Services Forum. Instead, the software maker has "put our stake in the ground" and selected the Kerberos network authentication protocol as the basis for its Passport system, said Greg Nelson, a product unit manager with Microsoft's Financial Technologies Group. Any third-party authentication system utilizing Kerberos, an open standard developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be able to interface with Passport, Nelson said.

But a Sun executive working on the Liberty Alliance system insinuated that Microsoft's version of interoperability differs from the industry's: "I'll let the elephant in the room. When someone preaches interoperability -- any vendor -- check the math and make sure you really know what that means," said Hal Stern, chief technology officer of Sun's iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions subsidiary.

An audience member quickly followed up on that comment, quizzing Nelson on how Microsoft intends to insure that Passport's use of the open Kerberos protocol isn't "polluted," as was Microsoft's infamous Java implementation.

Java offered a fundamentally different situation because it was created in-house by an industry rival, Nelson answered. Kerberos and other open standards, in contrast, have been adopted by industry consortiums and standards bodies -- groups in which Microsoft participates, he said.

"We're part of the conversation about how a technology like Kerberos develops. That was certainly not true about Java," Nelson said.

Still, the proof of genuine standards compliance lies in a product's implementation -- and on that count, Microsoft's record isn't impressive, Stern countered. "With Passport and its use of Kerberos today, (interoperability is) not the case. While the standard is obeyed, the implementation only works on other Microsoft platforms," he said.

Stern urged Microsoft to observe the open-standard spirit and implement Kerberos "without the special sauce."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stacy Cowley

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?