A key milestone in open-source identity services have been reached, according to two projects working on the problem.

Developers from Novell's Bandit open-source project and Higgins, part of the Eclipse Project, said a new "reference application" created by the two groups is a working example of open-source identity services that interoperate with Microsoft’s Windows CardSpace identity management system and Novell's Access Manager, based on specs from the Liberty Alliance.

The application shows that it is possible to link different identity systems using open-source components, according to Dale Olds, project manager for Bandit at Novell.

The integration has been in development for over a year and will be on display next week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. Part of the demonstration will show how companies can integrate a non-Liberty Alliance identity system with one that is. The demo will have Novell Access Manager authenticate a user via Microsoft's CardSpace using information from an external identity system. Users will then be able to access a sample media Wiki and blog using the technology, Olds said.

The vendors involved share a common vision of seamless identity layers that can be accessed from systems running on Mac OS, Windows or Linux. "That's the Big Bang," said Olds. "An identity metasystem - and we're making tangible progress toward that vision."

In contrast to current systems for linking identity systems, the technology on display at RSA will also be more "user-centric", by virtue of integration with Microsoft's CardSpace. CardSpace and the Infocard architecture that underlies it provides an easy way for users to store and manage identity information as it comes as standard in Windows Vista.