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At TechEd last week, Microsoft Corp. sketched out some of its future intentions in the identity management space, including federation services that likely will include Web single sign-on. Some resellers say the timing couldn’t be much better for these sorts of features to emerge for Windows. Others, though, contend that Microsoft should plug up existing security holes before venturing off into yet another new technology realm.

Ed Sarasinski, a senior solutions architect at Teterboro, N.J.-based Computer Design & Integration LLC, said that many of his company’s customers are either looking at or already working on new single sign-on projects, for unified authentication across all applications.

Sarasinski added that single sign-on is getting particularly popular in industries such as finance and health care, which are growing increasingly careful about identity management due to emerging federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA.

Customers are using a variety of technologies and platforms in their new single sign-on systems, according to the reseller. “Lots of vendors have been getting into identity management lately.”

Some customers are using Novell Inc.’s provisioning tools. “Ever since Novell bought SUSE, we’ve seen longtime NetWare users switching over to Linux. Novell looked like it was about to die—but now that company has been renewed,” Sarasinski said.

“Many Windows shops, however, will be interested in what Microsoft is doing,” predicted the senior solutions architect, when buttonholed in the halls of CeBIT America last week.

Also at CeBIT, a business analyst for a large IT vendor concurred with the gist of Sarasinski’s remarks. “It’s my job to check out the kinds of solutions that businesses are using,” explained the analyst, who asked not to be identified.

The analyst affirmed that many organizations, including his own, are now building “roll your own” single sign-on systems. “Federated identity management is a big issue right now,” he said.

“I expect that Microsoft’s solution will probably be deployed by a certain market segment—meaning companies that are 100 percent Windows,” he added. For the most part, though, this group will consist of small to midsized organizations, according to the analyst.

“Most large enterprises—ourselves included—also operate a number of other platforms, not just Windows,” he pointed out.

But one Windows reseller who services SMBs is quite unreceptive to the Microsoft initiative.

“Microsoft’s tried single sign-on before. They had something like that back in the days of Windows NT, and it never worked right. As a matter of fact, a lot of the stuff in NT never worked right, including the printing system,” said Richard Brumberg, who heads up Business Consulting Services, in New York.

“If Microsoft wants to tighten security, they should concentrate first on fixing the holes they already have. Windows keeps getting hit by one virus after another,” Brumberg maintained.