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Microsoft Updates Active Directory Roadmap

Microsoft said Tuesday that it is making additions and changes to Windows Server "Longhorn" and to Internet Explorer 7 to add capabilities to better support security and identity protection.

The announcements came during Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates' keynote presentation to the audience at RSA Conference 2006 in San Jose, California.

First off, Microsoft is incorporating support for the Identity Metasystem industry initiative into its products. According to a white paper posted on Microsoft's site last May, Identity Metasystem is "a system of systems, which would leverage the strengths of its constituent identity systems, provide interoperability between them, and enable creation of a consistent and straightforward user interface to them all."

This is because, the company says, adoption of a single digital identity system or technology is unlikely to happen. Therefore, it is necessary to construct an identity approach with the capability to connect existing and future identity systems into an identity metasystem -- a platform-independent architecture to help users and sites safely and privately exchange personal identity information.

In moving in that direction, Microsoft updated its roadmap for Active Directory to reflect "expanded capabilities" coming in future versions of Windows Server, beginning with Longhorn. Those capabilities will be evident in the Beta 2 release of Windows Server Longhorn coming in the second quarter of the year.

"Active Directory will evolve to provide users of Windows Server with a single infrastructure with which to manage all of their identity and access needs, including domain and directory services, strong credentials, access control, single sign-on, federated identity, information rights protection, process automation and auditing," according to Microsoft's statement.

Among the immediate changes will be a renaming of several existing features of Active Directory and Windows. For instance, AD Application Mode -- often referred to as ADAM -- will become AD Lightweight Directory Services. And Windows Certificate Services becomes AD Certificate Services.

The company also announced the beginning of the first beta test cycle for Microsoft Certificate Lifecycle Manager, a policy and workflow-driven solution for provisioning, configuration, and management of digital certificates and smart cards.

Finally, Microsoft announced that IE 7 will include support for what it has codenamed "InfoCard."

Microsoft plans to release InfoCard within the next year, which is a set of technologies built on the identity metasystem, to simplify and improve the safety of accessing resources and sharing personal information on the Internet. It will also ship a new version of the Active Directory directory service, which will include an identity provider that integrates with the identity metasystem.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.