Microsoft's attempts to fashion its flagship Windows 2000 OS into a platform for enterprise class ecommerce have hit obstacles, it emerged last week.
Baltimore Technologies, a player in the emerging public key infrastructure (PKI) market, has divulged that porting its Unicert PKI product to Microsoft Active Directory (MAD) is proving to be a formidable technical challenge.
Matthew Sacks, manager of products and solutions consulting at Baltimore, said there was no difficulty in porting Unicert to Novell's NDS or LDAP directory products from Isocor, Netscape or Oracle. However, he admitted that developing for Active Directory, was "not so trivial".
"A lot of work needs to be done and we're feeding back to Microsoft the problems that we have," Sacks told an audience of information security managers at a conference last week.
Clive Longbottom, strategy analyst at Strategy Partners International, said Baltimore's difficulties stem from Microsoft's proprietary way of supporting X.509 certificate management.
"Because of the clumsy way Microsoft is coding Active Directory, vendors have to second guess what is going on," said Longbottom. "Baltimore will have to hit Microsoft over the head with a large shillelagh."
Craig Richman, business development manager at Consult Hyperion, said if Active Directory is widely used in the enterprise market, support for PKI "has to be a major feature".
Lack of such support would not be a problem for inhouse systems used internally, but it would be a serious barrier for Windows 2000 deployment as a platform for interoperability of banking systems involving PKIs, he added.
PKIs are acknowledged as the future backbone of ebusiness. Analyst Datamonitor estimates that the global PKI market will grow to $1.8 billion (£1.2 billion) by 2001, from just $30 million in 1998.
A public key infrastructure enables users of a basically insecure public network, such as the internet, to securely and privately exchange data - or money - through the use of public key (asymmetric) cryptography.
In public key cryptography, a public and private key pair is created simultaneously using the same algorithm by a certificate authority. The private key is only given to the requesting party and the public key is made generally available in a directory.
PKIs provide for digital certificates that can identify individuals or organisations. Directory services provide a means of managing the complex information associated with the certificates.
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