Microsoft Cardspace and Novell Bandit to Pair at RSA

In the emerging race to create identity systems that span the Internet, there are proprietary and open source systems.

The two are no longer mutually exclusive: Novell’s  Project Bandit and Eclipse’s Project Higgins next week will show how their identity systems interoperate with Microsoft’s
 Windows CardSpace ID metasystem at the RSA Conference 2007 in San Francisco.

Windows CardSpace, one of the key new technologies included in Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, securely stores and transmits personal identities.

The open source Bandit Project is a similar effort, leveraging other open source efforts, including Eclipse’s Project Higgins.

The Bandit Project was born February 2006, though it was not officially announced until June of the same year. There has been a lot of refinement in Bandit since it first got started, according to Dale Olds, distinguished engineer at Novell.

That refinement has had a lot to do with actually defining what it is that Bandit actually does.

“This has always been a difficult thing to explain to people,” Olds told “Identity is a vague notion and how to take that and distill it into code and then make that into a sound bite and explain to somebody what Bandit is has always been one of our biggest challenges.”

“There has been a lot of refinement in the last year,” Olds continued. “Now we just focus on saying that Bandit will provide components for authentication, authorization and audit.”

While some Novell programmers spent 2006 refining Bandit, other Novell executives inked a interoperability and patent agreement with Microsoft. But Olds there is no direct benefit to Bandit as a result of the deal.

“We worked with the Microsoft guys well before the Novell Microsoft agreement on a thing called the open specification promise,” Olds explained. “[For] anything that we implement as part of Bandit or Higgins, the intellectual
property must be fully cleared before we implement it in open source.”

That said, Olds did admit that there may be some indirect benefits from the deal in the sense that Novell will be able to do more testing and receive better tech support for interoperability issues.

Even with the potential indirect benefits and the open specification promise from Microsoft, getting Bandit to interoperate with CardSpace still requires a good deal of work.

Olds indicated that when dealing with interoperability issues, it’s very difficult to get current accurate and good specifications. Olds thought Microsoft did a better job working with Bandit than most, though there are still some issues that cropped up.

“Things that are not suppose to matter like where the white space is in the XML, sometimes it’s a bug in the original implementation,” Old said.

“If there was a bug in CardSpace with the white space parsing of the XML data in Vista and it gets shipped to millions of customer you just have to code around that regardless of what the spec says.”

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