Novell has been added to the list of big-name sponsors of the Liberty Alliance Project, formed to develop open interoperability standards across the internet.
The Project was launched last September to offer an open alternative to Microsoft's proprietary Passport service, which stores personal information and controls website access.
Peter Joseph, director of corporate strategy, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Novell, said: "Rather than coming into the project with hype, Novell had to look at how it fitted with its One Net strategic vision.
"There were concerns with where Passport is hosted and that it is under the control of a single vendor."
The Liberty Alliance Project aims to support the development and deployment of an open interoperable standard for network identity across the web. It needs collaboration to achieve buy-in to standards to support privacy, security and trust between partners.
Novell's One Net envisions all internal and external networks, both wired and wireless, working together seamlessly to simplify ebusiness.
One of its products is Novell Access Management, its own proprietary access control software.
"We have a lot of expertise [in secure access] already," said Joseph, who cited Novell's single sign-on and directory services work. "The need for standards is crucial to enable ebusiness interoperability."
About 40 companies have so far signed up to the project, including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard, Cisco and Nokia, along with security vendors Entrust, RSA Security and Verisign.
Big business is represented by Bank of America, General Motors, AOL, Mastercard and France Telecom among others.
"The last thing you want is no choice," said Robin Bloor, chief executive at Bloor Research. "But there is a bigger issue about individual liberty which needs addressing. Your data has value and nobody has the right to access it except for anything in the public domain."
He explained that Passport holds details on individuals which means that Microsoft is acting as a trusted third party. The Liberty Alliance Project faced the same issue, he said.
So far no firm date has been set for a specification, and Joseph indicated that Novell is anxious to move this along. Passport meanwhile, which is here already, is becoming ever more established.
However, Microsoft itself is thought to be considering joining the Project and Joseph said he hoped it would.
But such a move could put the cat among the pigeons if the software giant tried to influence the standard or delay progress in such a way as to benefit Passport.
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