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Microsoft adds identity to cloud

Everyone eyeing Azure, their candidate for cloud-based computing, can at least agree on one thing: Redmond is late to the party that's dominated by Salesforce.com, Google, Amazon and a host of others. How can they hope to differentiate themselves?

Microsoft's JG Chirapurath, director of marketing for the Identity and Security Division, knows exactly how, and he told me about it last week. Identity is the key differentiator.

Last spring (“Identity management is key to the proper operation of cloud computing,”) I noted that some people were finally beginning to realize that identity had a part to play in cloud-based computing, but very little has been done. Until Microsoft's announcements last week at their Professional Developers Conference (PDC), that is.

As Chirapurath pointed out, along with lots of info about Azure, Microsoft also rolled out what's now called the Windows Identity Foundation (formerly the Geneva project). This is the glue that's needed for third-party developers to work with Windows Cardspace (and other information card technologies) to secure — among other things — cloud-based services and applications.

The release of the identity framework puts Microsoft ahead of all of the other cloud-based solution providers (many of whom are still struggling to attempt to adapt OpenID, with its security problems, to their cloud scenarios).

In a related announcement, Quest Software noted the launch of its first set of software-as-a-service Windows management solutions. Called “Quest OnDemand” the services will be hosted on Windows Azure, securely managing IT environments by leveraging the Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) 2.0. Quest's first modules are available in beta. They are:

* Quest Recovery Manager OnDemand for Active Directory — provides backup and object-level recovery of Active Directory data. It is designed to enable flexible, scheduled backups without manual intervention, facilitating quick and scalable recovery of Active Directory data.

* Quest InTrust OnDemand — securely collects, stores, reports and alerts on event data from Windows systems, helping organizations comply with external regulations, internal policies and security best practices.

Both products are expected to be generally available in Q1 2010 on a subscription basis without requiring on-premises deployment and maintenance.

Microsoft intends to be the winner in the cloud-based computing game, and the Windows Identity Foundation is their trump card.

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