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Microsoft's Geneva Server: Hailstorm done right

Hard lessons for Google, Facebook and Microsoft

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Microsoft delivers the missing piece

Geneva Server is this missing piece. It makes any Active Directory an STS for CardSpace. Geneva will also interoperate with other identity providers that support WS-Trust or SAML 2.0, the two key standards in this space. SAML 2.0 support is new.

"One more barrier is gone when it comes to you and me federating," said Cameron. The significance of federation is that applications can work with multiple identity providers. Geneva lets you create web applications that authenticate users against both your directory service, and those of partners, even if the web server is outside the corporate network.

Microsoft has announced its own Federation Gateway, which lets organizations sign into Live Services using their own Active Directory, using a cut-down version of Geneva called Microsoft Services Connector.

Geneva will not necessarily sweep all before it. One snag is that CardSpace clients are not common outside IE, though there is an Information Card Foundation promoting broader adoption. Another problem is that the Geneva Framework, a library that simplifies development, is only for .NET.

Why doesn't Microsoft just use OpenID? "We've been big supporters of OpenID," Cameron said. "It's just another federation protocol. It doesn't use cryptography, it just uses DNS. That means it's subject to all the attacks that DNS is subject to.

"That's OK in certain environments. OpenID because of its nature is phishable. That raises people's consciousness of what is possible. We can also give them solutions like CardSpace."

He added Microsoft is enabling all its Live ID accounts to act as OpenID accounts. What about accepting OpenID log-ins? "That's under investigation. We're doing it already with HealthVault but that's with OpenID providers who follow Kim's rules. They provide the option of strong authentication.

Geneva is set for full release in the second half of 2009. It has the potential to solve real problems in the enterprise and deserves more attention than Microsoft has given it at this PDC.

The question now: Will the company really give Geneva the resources, the marketing, and the public adoption on Microsoft's own properties that it needs to succeed? Or will it continue to languish like the original CardSpace? Sometimes Microsoft is its own worst enemy. ®

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