VeriSign seeks to become Web services security plumbing

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

VeriSign Inc yesterday outlined how it hopes its digital security services will become an integral part of internet business's evolution into a web services-based architecture, unveiling a toolkit and framework for helping application developers more easily build security into web services,

Kevin Murphy writes

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As part of the launch, the company announced partnerships with a multitude of big players in the emerging field: Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle, HP, BEA and webMethods. Many partners will be putting VeriSign-enabled components into their application servers and other web services products.

From a services point of view, there is little new to the announcement. "All the services we're announcing today are things we already do today, " said Anil Pereira, senior VP of VeriSign's enterprise and service provider division. "What we're announcing is their seamless integration into web services applications."

The aim is to take a lot of the complexity out of adding security to web services. Developers will be able to access VeriSign's hosted security services in one of three ways: through VeriSign's own Java-based APIs and software development kit, through components of partner products from the likes of IBM and Microsoft, or simply by writing interfaces in the XML-based specifications VeriSign supports.

For example, a developer writing a web service that needs its data signed using a digital certificate will be able to make function calls, using a Java API, that ask VeriSign's XKMS (XML Key Management Specification) service to validate the certificate before signing.

VeriSign is offering a Trust Services Integration Toolkit for building this type of service into applications. Other VeriSign secure services, such as authentication and payment processing, are also offered via APIs in the TSIK.

The beauty of the framework, Pereira said, is that it is completely standards-compliant (any standard that begins in X, it seems), so developers will have a free rein to integrate other company's products, such as a compliant in-house certificate authority provided by one of VeriSign's competitors, if they so choose.

However, as VeriSign will be "the default provider of these trust services", Pereira said: "We feel confident that we will get the majority of the business." The company realizes revenue from a number of areas - issuing certs and authenticating lookups, for example.

The company is working to the rough four-phase roadmap web services pioneers have collectively identified. Phase one, this year and next, is about enterprises building web services for internal use. Overlapping with that phase, by 2003 companies should have started offering certain services to select partners. From 2004 onwards, VeriSign reckons companies will have started opening their web services less discriminately to second and third tier partners, and then completely.

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