More than a year after they buried the hatchet and announced a collaboration agreement, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems spoke at an event Friday about their work together, including steps toward addressing what Sun called customers' top request: single sign-on between Microsoft's Windows Server and Sun's Solaris operating system and Java Enterprise System.
Sun and Microsoft's initial work together has focused on drafting standards. In the past year they've jointly worked on two single-sign-on protocols, Web SSO (Single Sign-On) MEX (Metadata Exchange) and Web SSO Interoperability Profile, which they plan to support in Windows Server and Java Enterprise System. The protocols are intended to enable single-sign-on across domains using two different identity standards, WS-Federation and the Liberty Alliance's ID-FF (Identity Federation Framework).
The two vendors are also working together on other Web services standards such as WS-Management, a specification for coordinating hardware and software management.
"In the first year, we've moved from the courtroom to the computer lab. Now we're moving from the lab to the market," Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer said at a joint Sun and Microsoft event for media and analysts at a Palo Alto, California, hotel.
"Microsoft's .Net and Sun's Java, those are the two leading platforms in the market. So having our two teams cooperate is important, unique, and essential if the world is going to get the interoperability that it needs," Ballmer said.
To move further, Sun and Microsoft will need the help of customers, said Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy, also at the event. "We're going to need help. It is not just going to be done in the lab. It has to be done with the customer to integrate these environments," McNealy said.
Sun and Microsoft also highlighted their other technology swaps, including product certifications and work with third-party integrators like Accenture Ltd. and EDS Corp. on customer projects combining the two vendors' products.
Longtime rivals Sun and Microsoft startled the industry last year with an agreement in early April that ended years of lawsuits between the two companies and called for Microsoft to pay Sun more than US$1 billion to resolve antitrust and patent issues. The companies also signed a 10-year technical collaboration agreement and pledged to improve their working relationship.
At the event Friday, Sun and Microsoft demonstrated identity federation using the new Web SSO MEX and Web SSO Interoperability Profile, which bridge Microsoft's WS-Federation specification and the Liberty Alliance specifications backed by Sun.
Although identity federation is only one piece of the work Microsoft and Sun are doing, it is an important piece, said Fred Killeen, chief technology officer at General Motors (GM). Today, federation between Sun and Microsoft environments requires special software adapters and sometimes homemade tools, Killeen said.
"This collaboration between Sun and Microsoft could significantly reduce our integration and ongoing maintenance costs," he said in an interview after the Sun and Microsoft event, which he attended.
John Rymer, a research vice president at Forrester Research, agreed. "The significance of the single-sign-on protocols is that integration should become easier than it is today," he said.
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