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Liberty president's challenge: to remain ‘relevant’

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The next president of the Liberty Alliance Project must ensure security specifications are produced in a timely fashion while the organization remains relevant to the needs of nearly 100 members.

Gavin Clarke writes>

That's according to presidential candidate, and acting president, Michael Barrett, who this week told ComputerWire Liberty has evolved from a "start-up" to mature organization in just 12 months.

Liberty was announced in September 2001 with 16 founders. Since then, members have grown to include corporate consumers of IT, vendors spanning network hardware to cell phones, and an increasing number of not-for-profits and public organizations.

But the organization's first anniversary has been marred with bad news. Liberty president Eric Dean last week announced he has stepped down to devote more time to his regular job as chief information officer at United Airlines.

Liberty's long-term role is also in question. It emerged in July that members are considering submission of specifications to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), potentially leaving Liberty bereft of a mission.

Barrett, vice president of Internet strategy for American Express Corp, said future challenges include coordinating activity and delivering on specificaitons in this rapidly expanding organization.

A number of Liberty board members have thrown their hats in the ring for election as Dean's successor. Elections to the year-long post are expected to take place during the next few weeks.

"We have a unique blend of members and we produce specifications so quickly, the challenge is how we make progress going forward as the organization grows bigger," Barrett said. "I don't think there's any magic, you have to pay attention to the details."

Barrett is unsure where Liberty's long-term future lay. He said Liberty would have to consider how it remains relevant, as specifications mature and gain wider adoption in vendors' products.

"There are multiple possible end scenarios [for Liberty]. We could all go home... or transform into a standards body in the identity space," he said. "That's 18 months to two years down the road, and it's not relevant to have that discussion yet."

Not topping the list of near-term presidential challenges is attracting IBM or Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp to Liberty. Despite being courted by Liberty members, Microsoft and IBM remain aloof.

Talk of a federated version of Passport - announced rather suspiciously by Microsoft within days of Liberty - has subsided. Instead the company developed WS-Security with IBM and Mountain View, California-based VeriSign Inc.

WS-Security has now passed to OASIS, also home of Security Assertion Mark-up Language (SAML). Microsoft has said it will support SAML assertions - developed by OASIS members - that relate to WS-Security.

Barrett believes events will take a natural course, avoiding the need pursue either IBM or Microsoft. "In the long-term there's going to be interoperability and potentially [there will be] convergence. We are going to look back in a couple of years and ask what all the fuss was about and why people got so excited," Barrett said.

© ComputerWire

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