Sun Microsystems has released its online authentication system, a rival to Microsoft's Passport, in an attempt to catch up in the web services race.
Network Identity will provide a single sign-on authentication and authorisation service, mirroring Passport. It will be submitted to the Liberty Alliance, a conglomerate of companies committed to providing an alternative to Microsoft's solution.
Authentication services had given Microsoft a lead in the web services race and the Redmond giant offers the best choice for firms looking to build and deploy web services in the near future, according to Derek Sayers, managing director of the e-innovations unit at IT services firm ICL.
"Microsoft has all the components needed to build and deploy an integrated application built from web services components," he said.
But this suggestion was dismissed by Simon Holloway, European business solutions manager at Sun.
"We have customers running web services right now," he said, adding that the new authentication system would replicate Passport's function and have the advantage of being based on open standards.
The choice of whether to follow Microsoft's .Net vision for web services, or Java alternatives such as Sun One, would largely be driven by current architecture, explained Sayers.
"But for those firms still to make a choice, the depth of Microsoft's product range would be compelling," he said.
Microsoft's Passport system gives it the advantage of five years' experience of running a live service, maintained Graham Fisher, a senior analyst at Bloor Research.
This could prove to be a double-edged sword, he added, because "Microsoft has also suffered from bad publicity regarding security".
The Sun One Platform for Network Identity includes pre-installed and configured iPlanetTM Directory Server Access Management Edition 5 and SolarisTM 8 Operating Environment, running on Sun FireTM 280R UltraTM Sparc(r) III servers and Sun StorEdgeTM D2 storage arrays (72Gb or 145Gb).
It will come in two editions - Enterpise and Internet - with prices starting at £106,000 and £707,000 respectively.
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