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Joint Microsoft-Sun efforts focus on single sign-on

The CEOs of the two former rivals outline progress made during the first year of their decade-long technology alliance.

A little more than a year after reaching a broad agreement to collaborate, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Inc., on Friday showed off the first fruits of their effort to make Java and .NET more interoperable.

We feel like we have new opportunities to open up to Sun and Sun feels like it has new opportunities opened to them.


Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

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The companies have jointly developed and published two draft specifications to help users gain easier access to Web-based applications. They are the Web Single Sign-On Metadata Exchange Protocol and the Web Single Sign-On Interoperability Profile.

The specifications allow browser-based single sign-on between security domains using Liberty ID-FF and WS-Federation. Both companies said they would support the specifications in their respective product lines: Windows Server and Sun Java Enterprise System.

In April 2004, Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Microsoft revealed a 10-year agreement to collaborate and make their products more interoperable. Since then, details about what was happening behind closed doors have been somewhat scarce. But during a press conference on Friday, Scott McNealy, Sun's CEO, said the companies took some time to get comfortable with each other.

"You have a world like when the Berlin Wall came down," he said. "For the first six months, engineers were getting to know each other. They were learning to speak another language."

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Both companies agree on one thing, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said: The backbone of the enterprise is moving off mainframes. "We will disagree about where they should go, but we agree they should go," Ballmer said.

Ballmer said the single sign-on specification will be integrated into existing Microsoft identity-related products, such as Active Directory and Microsoft Identity Integration Server.

Ballmer said the agreement between the two companies isn't just a toe dip in the water, but a plunge. "A disarmament," he called it. "We feel like we have new opportunities to open up to Sun, and Sun feels like it has new opportunities opened to them."

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