Microsoft is to meet this month with vendors and organisations that are backing several different identity management systems. The Microsoft meeting suggests that cooperation between the software giant and its peers is improving.

Microsoft's meeting is part of an initiative called the Concordia Project. The Concordia Project strives to improve interoperability between Microsoft's two identity-management systems: Microsoft CardSpace and OpenID. The Concordia Project also aims to agree protocols for identity management supported by an industry trade group, the Liberty Alliance, said Roger Sullivan, president of the Concordia Project management board.

Vendors will hear from companies such as General Motors, Boeing and AOL LLC about how they're trying to integrate various identity management systems into their operations, Sullivan said.

"Many of these protocols today are very geek-centric," said Sullivan, who is also vice president of Oracle's identity-management section. "They're not very people-friendy."

A major issue is how vendors can use different authentication mechanisms in their operations. For example, a financial planning website could allow users to forecast how much their retirement fund may be worth in 30 years. Eventually, the user may want to buy a service from the financial planner and migrate that same data to an environment that uses stronger authentication, Sullivan said.

This means there would need to be more interoperability between the protocols used by OpenID, CardSpace and Liberty-enabled applications.

"I would more expect that we will have nuanced changes or extensions to existing protocols to enable the interoperability," Sullivan said.

The Concordia Project, set up by the Liberty Alliance, hopes to release its first set of open standards by the end of the year, Sullivan said.

Microsoft said in February at the RSA Conference it would integrate CardSpace and OpenID, an open-source standard for logging into websites.

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