Among the promises of open source software is that there is no vendor lock-in. It’s a promise that new open source startup ForgeRock is aiming to deliver upon by supporting and extending the OpenSSO open source single sign-on and identity management platform formerly supported by Sun Microsystems.
Many former Sun employees have found a home at ForgeRock, including Simon Phipps, who previously served as Sun’s chief open source officer. At ForgeRock, Phipps holds the position of chief strategy officer.
ForgeRock’s goal is not just to support the OpenSSO platform, but to extend it into a complete access management solution. While ForgeRock and some of its technologies have their roots in Sun, the company doesn’t necessarily see Oracle, Sun’s new owner, as the primary competitive target.
“What we’ve done is put together a complete platform that we called the I-cubed platform that provides identity and authentication though OpenSSO and a piece of code called OpenIDM,” Phipps told InternetNews.com. “We’re also taking onboard the openESB (enterprise service bus) community, and then there are other elements to the solution like a directory service and a portal, and that’s on our roadmap.”
The OpenSSO project began in 2005 when Sun open sourced the code for the single sign-on technology under its Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). The OpenSSO project was last updated in April 2009 with the addition of new federation capabilities to enable authentication with Google Apps.
ForgeRock is now taking the OpenSSO open source code and renaming it under its own OpenAM (access management) project name.
“Our business is to have the whole platform and we’re engaging experts with years of experience to pick up the roadmap where Sun left off and carrying on to customers what they need to succeed,” Phipps said.
Oracle acquired the OpenSSO project through the Sun purchase, and it still maintains a product page listing OpenSSO as a commercially supported application. However, Oracle has its own identity management portfolio that was in place prior to the Sun acquisition. An Oracle spokesperson was not available to comment on ForgeRock’s work by press time.
Phipps does not consider ForgeRock’s implementation of OpenSSO to be a fork of Oracle’s code, at least not initially. Phipps noted that ForgeRock has all of the open source code of OpenSSO project under the CDDL license, though Oracle holds the copyright for OpenSSO.
“What the CDDL says is that for any file that we make changes, we need to make available those changes and we fully intend to do that and we would welcome Oracle picking up those components and re-integrating them,” Phipps said. “It’s not our intent to create a fork of the code base.”
That said, Phipps noted that the project has not typically accepted contributions from competitors.
“As such it may prove nonviable to make upstream contributions,” he said. “At the point at which it becomes impossible to make upstream contributions from our repository, you would probably regard a fork as having taken place.”
Phipps added that OpenAM will be completely identical to the place where OpenSSO was heading. So for existing users, ForgeRock is aiming to provide a degree of continuity.
“The most important thing for existing users is the continuity in the product so they can keep on going with their existing installations,” ForgeRock CEO Lasse Andresen told InternetNews.com.
At the same time, Phipps made it plain that ForgeRock is not positioning itself as a direct competitor to Oracle.
“The people who we’re interested in are those that have needs that can’t be met from their existing business relationships,” Phipps said. “I really don’t believe that ForgeRock competes with Oracle. Oracle has its own customers and strategy, what we’re saying is that after their strategy is completed, the market contains customers that have needs and that’s what we’re going after.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.