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After A Year Of Peace, Sun And Microsoft Show Results

The two vendors have jointly developed two single-sign-on protocols that they are ready to submit to standards bodies.

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft engineers have collaborated on two single-sign-on protocols that they're ready to submit to standards bodies. The next versions of Microsoft Active Directory and Sun's Directory Server, due out next year, will incorporate the new protocols, said Sun CEO Scott McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Friday at a joint press conference in Palo Alto, Calif.

The protocols are called Web Single Sign-On Interoperability Profile and Web Single Sign-On Metadata Exchange. Once implemented, they will enable a user from a Web browser to log on to Microsoft Active Directory and gain access to resources requiring a Sun Directory Server logon, and vice versa. The respective directories recognize the user-ID and authentication measures of both the Sun-led Liberty Alliance and Microsoft's WS-Federation, two groups working on federated identity-management standards.

The two CEOs said those protocols were the leading result of a 12-month collaborative effort to make their products more interoperable. "Basically, we've done a good first year's work," McNealy said.

"We know there's a lot more work we need to do," Ballmer added.

The collaboration is supposed to continue over a 10-year agreement arrived at April 2, 2004, in which Microsoft paid Sun $1.9 billion to settle their outstanding suits and legal differences. The two companies were longtime bitter enemies, and the collaboration proceeded slowly at first. The first six months were spent on "getting-to-know-you" meetings and Microsoft expressed some impatience with the slow pace at one point, Ballmer said.

"Once they got over the fact [that Microsoft didn't need to give up any Windows intellectual property], that all we needed to do was to get the stuff to play nice, that was a big step," McNealy said.

McNealy said the collaboration, led by Sun chief technology officer Greg Papadopolous and Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates, will next work on WS-Management, a specification for managing Windows and Solaris systems from a single management console.

Other areas of collaboration include building support for Microsoft's Windows storage protocols into Sun's storage management software that runs Sun's 6920 storage arrays. Microsoft in turn has certified that Windows Server software will run on Sun's AMD Opteron-based servers.

Sun's SunRay thin-client terminal now works with Windows Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003, McNealy added.

The two companies also are licensing each other's products, such as Sun's recent license for Microsoft's Remote Display Protocol.

Neither company said to which standards body the two proposed protocol specifications will be submitted. "The nice thing about standards bodies is that you have so many to choose from," McNealy said. Sun in the past has submitted Java for possible standardization to two international standards bodies. In each case, it retracted its proposal before the body could act.

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