Sun beefs up ID management products

A slew of software updates to Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Open Net Environment (ONE) family of identity management software and development tools increases the performance of that company's products and provides tighter integration between Sun's software and products from Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Novell Inc. and IBM, Sun said Wednesday.

Sun unveiled the upgraded software at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco. The updated products include versions of the Sun ONE Directory Server, Directory Proxy Server, Directory Server Resource Kit and Meta-Directory as well as a new Sun ONE product that synchronizes passwords between Microsoft's Active Directory and Sun ONE environments.

Topping the news is the announcement of Version 5.2 of the Sun ONE Directory Server. It features a re-architected 64-bit back end that will vastly increase its ability to manage large user directories, including data sets in excess of 1TB, according to John Barco, an identity management product marketing manager at Sun.

As a result of the new 64-bit architecture, the new Directory Server can support as many as 12 CPUs, with performance improvements of between 50% and 500% in various operations compared with the 5.1 release, Barco said.

The increased performance will attract companies that are looking to consolidate their data center operations by moving functionality that is spread out over multiple servers to a single, high-performance server, he said.

Meanwhile, Directory Service Resource Kit Version 5.2 includes updated software development kits for the C and Java programming languages that are designed to take advantage of Directory Server's performance improvements, Barco said.

Directory Server's latest version also boosts its high-availability features for deployment on WANs, including improved, four-way data replication between master directory servers and support for the Sun Cluster 3.0 agent, the company said.

Master directory servers manage and disseminate user information and attributes to smaller "consumer" user directories that are attached to other network resources such as applications or databases.

The four-way replication allows organizations with sets of primary and backup Directory Servers at redundant data centers to ensure that directory information can be copied between any of the servers, Barco said.

Sun also said that it is expanding its support for directory services technology. Version 5.2 adds support for Directory Service Markup Language, an XML derivative akin to Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) that enables organizations to share data between disparate systems.

In the process, Sun also redesigned the Directory Server's front end, creating a plug-and-play architecture that will make it easier to add support for new protocols as they are created, Barco said.

To encourage adoption of Directory Server on networks using Microsoft's Active Directory with Windows NT or Windows 2000, Sun also announced Sun ONE Identity Synchronization for Windows 1.0.

The new tool enables user passwords stored in either Directory Server or Active Directory to be synchronized uni- or bidirectionally, Sun said.

The Identity Synchronization product is intended to help bridge the gap within organizations between groups managing systems that run applications on Microsoft operating systems and that use Active Directory and those managing other platforms such as Unix and Linux that use LDAP along with Sun ONE.

"It's like you've got two worlds -- an IT shop that owns the Microsoft world and one that owns the Sun ONE world, and the two never talk. This type of product is designed to get around the political issues that are pervasive in that type of enterprise environment," Barco said.

The new Version 5.1 of the Sun ONE Meta-Directory product includes new connectors for a variety of products by Oracle, Microsoft, Novell and IBM, including IBM's Lotus Notes Version 5.0.10, Microsoft Exchange 2000 and Novell e-Directory 8.6.2, Sun said.

Meta-Directory integrates identity information from third-party databases and enterprise applications.

The increasing interest among organizations in deploying Web services as well as tough new regulatory requirements that mandate better protection of corporate information assets are driving interest in Sun's identity management products, according to Andy Eliopoulos, director of business management for identity management at Sun.

"Identity management is fundamental to Web services. Without it, you've got no Web services," he said.

The company's latest announcements are part of Sun's efforts to keep a high profile in the identity management market without alienating customers, according to Chris King, an analyst at Meta Group Inc.

Once the dominant player in extranet deployments, Sun has increasingly found itself competing in that market with rivals Microsoft and Novell, King said.

"Sun's trying to look as broadly as possible. They're very concerned about Microsoft's ADAM, and they're trying to be out there as much as possible saying 'Identity, Identity, Identity,'" King said, referring to Microsoft's forthcoming Active Directory Application Mode directory services.

While Sun's identity management platform will probably continue to have a strong presence within organizations, especially those that standardize on LDAP, the company's broad product offerings may be scaring away prospective identity management and provisioning business partners that could give Sun a technological leg up on Microsoft and others, King said.

The software updates will be available in June. The new Sun ONE Identity Synchronization for Windows 1.0 tool will be available in July, Sun said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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