• United States



by Andrew Braunberg

Sun to Open Source Its Identity Management Suite

Dec 19, 20056 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

On November 30th, Sun announced that it is making the Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software, and Sun developer tools available at no cost for both development and deployment and further, is reaffirming its commitment to open source this software. Second, Sun is announcing that it is integrating all of this software along with the Solaris OS into the Solaris Enterprise System.

Analytical Summary

  • Current Perspective: Neutral on Suns announced plans to open source its Java Enterprise Systems software, which includes much of the Sun identity management suite, because given the high ratio of services in identity management (IdM) suite engagements, the move is not likely to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of IdM solutions significantly.
  • Vendor Importance: High to Sun, because it has plans to open source all of its software products. This is a huge gamble for the company because it is unclear that the move will generate additional sales in services or hardware.
  • Market Impact: Moderate on the IdM market, because Sun is a major player and this move is sure to create a lot of smoke, if not fire. If Sun can in fact drive migration from IBM AIX and HP UX to Solaris then this move might add seats to Suns IdM suite, but it likely in the short to medium term to simply drive complicated TCO arguments.


Current Perspective Neutral

We are taking a neutral stance on Suns announced plans to give away its IdM suite and move the code into the open source community. The plan is part of a broader shift by Sun to eventually push all of its software into open source in the hopes of driving much broader usage of its creations. The company would then make its money on associated support and services. Clearly this model has worked before but it is a huge gamble for Sun, which has invested years of work into developing its IdM suite.

This announcement follows several previous moves by Sun to move software into open source. Most famously the company open sources its Solaris operating system, but on the IdM side the company announced last summer (see “Sun Promises to Release Web SSO Code to Open Source,” July 19, 2005) that it would open source its Web single sign on code. Suns stated goal then was to ease the burden on Java developers to incorporate Web SSO support in new applications and subsequently to move the market more quickly to embrace more lucrative IdM products such as Suns Java System Federation Manager and Java System Identity Auditor.

Sun has announced plans to make the Java Enterprise System, among other software, available as free and open source software. The Java Enterprise System includes Suns access management (i.e., Access Manager), provisioning (i.e., Identity Manager) and directory services (i.e., Directory Server) software. Suns plan is to build the total user base for its identity suite and then upsell that user base with value added services and support. This is not that different from the traditional approach of many IdM vendors to leverage their installed base of directory services users in much the same way. And indeed, many vendors give away directory services for just that reason.

There are a few concerns with this announcement. The most obvious, of course, is that Sun now plans to give away software that until now had been generating about $100 million per year in revenue for the company. That makes this a significant gamble even for a company of Suns size. On a more tactical level, Sun has not provided a roadmap for pushing out this software to open source and it is not clear whether this new announcement will affect its scheduled release of Web SSO code.

The long term impact of this announcement is potentially large as the market is forced to shift away from traditionally proprietary solutions. The short to medium term impacts are small however. Enterprise vendors are not simply going to download Suns free software and attempt to deploy it without service and support. The largest immediate impact will be to generate total cost of ownership arguments among competing suite vendors.

There is no doubt about it: this is a bold move by Sun and one that needs to be tracked closely by end users and competitors. Sun now needs to fill in many of the details such as timing.

Positives and Concerns

Competitive Positives

  • Sun has announced plans to make the Java Enterprise System, among other software, available as free and open source software. The Java Enterprise System includes Suns access management (i.e., Access Manager), provisioning (i.e., Identity Manager) and directory services (i.e., Directory Server) software.
  • By giving away its core software, Sun hopes to drive up its installed base significantly, particularly among developers who often influence broader enterprise buying decisions. The company claims that a similar move earlier this year to open source its Solaris OS has driven significant new interest in that software.
  • Sun hopes that by commoditizing core identity infrastructure components it can help drive their ubiquitous deployment and accelerate the enterprise adoption of a much broader set of IdM functionality, particularly federation.

Competitive Concerns

  • This is a huge gamble for Sun. The “plan” is to give away the software so as to drive up volume and then figure out how to monetize services that exploit that expanded user base. Sun claims that Java Enterprise System was generating approximately $100 million in revenue.
  • The announcement does not affect all the products in Suns IdM suite. The company has committee to open sourcing the Sun Java Enterprise System, which includes Sun Java System Identity Manager, Sun Java System Access Manager, and Sun Java System Directory Server. Sun had already committed to open sourcing much of the code in Access Manager.
  • Sun has not released a roadmap for when or where it will push out its code base. When the company announced last summer that it would open source its Web SSO code, it promised full release by spring 2006. It is not clear whether this announcement will affect that release date.

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