After months of flirting, IBM Corp has finally joined the industry-backed Liberty Alliance Project, potentially speeding interoperability between two rival sets of Web services specifications for federated identity.
The company has announced that it has joined Liberty as a board member, where it will influence policy, strategy and technology roadmaps, along with 14 other tech and end-user organizations.
IBM’s decision comes having spent three years outside of Liberty, formed in September 2001 by Sun Microsystems Inc and others, vigorously developing a separate set of specifications for federated identity with partner Microsoft Corp under the companies’ jointly authored WS- roadmap.
IBM said yesterday it remains committed to WS- and rolling out support for WS-Security and WS-Federation into the company’s own products.
However, in a statement the company said: Customers are looking for identity management software that is flexible, supporting both WS- and Liberty. To that end, IBM plans to support a broad range of federated identity specifications across its Tivoli identity management product line.
IBM added it believes convergence of WS- and Liberty would be better for customers in the long term.
Liberty Alliance president Michael Barrett said aside from assisting in interoperability between the WS- and Liberty specifications, IBM would have an impact in development for future specifications, guidelines and policy statements and work with regulators.
Barrett called IBM’s decision to join validation by one of the industry’s leaders of what we are doing. Barrett said he was unaware of discussions to persuade IBM’s WS- partner Microsoft to also join, but noted Liberty’s representatives are in daily contact with Microsoft at a customer level.
The path to IBM’s membership has seen the computing and systems giant move slowly closer to Liberty this year through products and services, in an apparent recognition of Liberty’s growing influence, especially among end-users.
Since its foundation, end-users have held influence at Liberty, with American Express, Fidelity and General Motors helping found the group with Sun, Nokia and others. Liberty today has 160 member organizations.
In June, IBM announced Tivoli Access Manager would support Liberty 1.1 while in July IBM said it would provide federated single sign-in services using Liberty’s specifications for 50 million Orange SA mobile phone customers. Orange owner France Telecom is a Liberty board member.