Microsoft has bought
certificate management and identity specialist
Alacris for an unknown amount.

The purchase slots into Microsoft's plan for "easily administered" identity and access management solutions. Alacris' flagship product idNexus Identity Assurance Management System is aimed at helping companies using technologies such as smart cards and PKI in a user-friendly way.

Alacris' 24 employees will be "evaluated" to see how they fit into Microsoft's organisation, said security products' manager Michael Atalla.

Many companies are moving away from using user names and passwords alone to give employees access to sensitive data or equipment, Atalla said. By adding Alacris, Microsoft wants to show companies that "the use of smart cards and biometrics are as useful and easy to use as user name and passwords," Atalla said.

The Alacris buy will add products on top of Microsoft's existing partnerships, Atalla said. While Alacris has focused much of its efforts on smart cards, Microsoft plans to use the technology elsewhere as well. "We put ourselves in a position to offer an end-to-end solution," Atalla said. "In the end, any digital certificate solution is on the table."