IBM Signs on For Small Business

Big Blue is expanding its single sign-on application to help smaller companies work with their partners.

IBM (Quote) is rolling out identity management software to help small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) transact with the networks of larger partners.

Federated Identity Manager Business Gateway allows employees of one company to log on to the network of an outside company without having to provide a user ID and password to the other network.

In addition to simplifying access, this also means that SMBs don't have to worry about former employees using IDs and passwords granted by their partners to gain unauthorized access.

The solution can also be used to integrate the services provided by a smaller company onto a larger company's Web site.

For instance, a bank can allow a third-party financial services company to provide niche services to its online banking customers seamlessly.

Customers would be able to interact with the niche vendor without having to log in to the third-party site because it has been authenticated by the bank's network.

The software is a new version of Big Blue's Federated Identity Manager (FIM) and is based on SAML (define), a key protocol for secure digital identity management within Web-based transactions.

Venkat Raghavan, program director of security policy and compliance for IBM Tivoli, explained that IBM designed the new application specifically for SMBs by reducing both the complexity of the architecture and the cost.

"For instance, it doesn't require the customer to deploy [a separate] identity management infrastructure," he told

Also unlike FIM, which uses several protocols, including Liberty, WS-Federation, WS-Security and WS-Trust standards and specifications, the Business Gateway version supports only SAML.

The new application is also far less expensive.

Business Gateway runs between $50,000 and $70,000 per server, compared with several hundred thousand dollars for a full-blown FIM installation.

While even the lower price range seems like a chunk of change for an SMB, it may be the key to working with a larger partner.

"It's usually associated with enabling a significant new revenue stream," noted Scott Crawford, senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates.

IBM rolled out FIM in May of last year.

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