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Sun adds identity to Portal Server

Sun adds identity to Portal Server

Sun ONE Portal 6.0 -- the first major revision since May 2000 -- represents one of the industry's first attempts to establish an open, end-to-end network identity infrastructure and at the same time put some light between Sun Microsystems and its competitors in the portal platform business.

Sun thinks the ability to manage identity is the next big challenge facing the portal market, and the release combines work the company has been doing with partners such as RSA Security, the Liberty Alliance and the Java Specification Request (JSR) initiative. It will extend support beyond the Sun ONE application server to BEA WebLogic and IBM WebSphere, and will also make the release available on Linux and Windows 2000 operating systems.

The message: The Sun ONE Portal Server (previously called iPlanet Portal Server) 6.0 release represents the industry's first coherent platform for single sign-on, authorization and access control as well as support for three application servers and three operating systems. It addresses security, total cost of ownership and flexibility, especially when it comes to usage and deployment -- the development of a standard identity layer in portals is essential if Web services are going to play a role in the portal framework.

Competitive landscape: The Sun ONE Portal Server and iPlanet Directory Server have 385 customers, some with as many as 30,000 users. IBM, Sybase, Oracle, Tibco and PeopleSoft are just some of its competitors. Sun thinks the portal is a more important element in Web services than either the operating system or the application server, technologies that it is merging into its Solaris 9.0 release. The 6.0 version formalizes work Sun has been doing to ensure interoperability between Web access management and digital certificate management software and build a trusted environment for online processes.

Technology: Since the Sun ONE Portal Server manages all the identity information associated with each portal user's roles and access privileges, administrators only need to manage identity information once for multiple portal deployments, applications and initiatives, claims Sun. Such an approach should significantly increase the return on investment and reduce the amount of user management required, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership.

In addition to making administration easier, the single administration model addresses associated administration costs and inaccurate data. It offers the ability to customize the portal layout and user interface and to publish portal tabs to better organize information, content and applications; it stores multiple roles within the directory and has an upgraded search engine to provide easier browsing and filtering by topic.

By managing role and identity information, the Sun ONE Portal Server lets administrators add new content, applications and services to the portal without rebooting, which will allow new services to be delivered faster to end-user communities and the task of creating portals to be delegated to departments.

Product availability: The new release is scheduled for general availability in August of this year, WebLogic and WebSphere application server support is due in December 2002, while Windows and Linux are penciled in for the first half of next year.

Strategy: The portal strategy reflects a wider shift by Sun toward bundling software for use at the customer's option. Often this appears to conflict with third-party software from partners. Sun recently increased the amount of software that is bundled into Solaris 9.0, including the Sun ONE (iPlanet) directory server, which is included to provide native LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) services. Information stored in the LDAP directory server can be used for the authentication and authorization of users to enable secure access to enterprise and Internet services and applications. The software ensures access control policies are applied across all communities, applications and services -- particularly important where services are being rolled out or offered to a large population of users.

Much like Solaris 9 is supposed to go beyond the simple mechanics of an operating system adding features, such as the application server software (Sun ONE) that Sun is bundling for use at the user's option, so the Portal Server 6.0 release includes enhanced development and deployment -- the Sun ONE Studio (formerly Forte for Java IDE) as a 'portlet builder,' support for Java Connector Architecture, and a unified management console and delegated administration.

Sun argues that bundling useful and in some cases essential software is not intended to lock out alternatives such as Netegrity's secure identity management products or RSA Security's RSA ClearTrust Web access management and Keon digital certificate management software. Rather, Sun says, the bundling makes it easier to ensure security and reduce costs while also continuing to offer customers the choice of deploying third-party identity and security products.

Partners: While there could be rumblings of discontent, Sun has done its best to head off criticism -- it has 17 ISVs incorporating the latest version of Portal Server into their software. For instance, Sun and RSA Security have entered a joint sales, engineering and marketing agreement to ensure interoperability between RSA's ClearTrust and Keon and Sun's Directory Server and Portal Server. Sun's director of marketing for communication and portal services, John Fanelli, said customers can now build a trusted environment for online processes and balance Web access with the appropriate levels of security, using RSA and Sun offerings.

The451 assessment: Most enterprise portals include redundant data with multiple/separate user management, but no single sign-on infrastructure and no central policy management. By providing a foundation for these, Sun is attempting to improve security, cost and deployment issues around redundant user identity information, as well as limited policy and single sign-on capabilities. We expect competitors to follow suit and highlight the threat to third-party identity and security products that Sun's latest release poses.



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