IBM has released its first server designed to integrate identities and access control platforms with partner companies.

IBM's Tivoli Federated Identity Manager (TFIM) is standards-based software that supports so-called identity federation, where identities are used as a simple means to secure the data and services sharing between companies.

The technology lets users connect to their corporate network and then use that sign-on to gain access to services on a partner's network.

TFIM supports a number of standards and emerging standards, including Security Assertion Markup Language, Liberty Alliance, WS-Federation, WS-Trust and WS-Security.

The server is a key integration technology for IBM's WebSphere middleware platform, linking portals and application servers. IBM says the technology is vital for companies integrating internally between divisions and business units, especially those added through mergers and acquisitions.

IBM joins a handful of companies that offer federation servers, including HP, RSA Security, Sun, Oracle, Ping Identity and Trustgenix. Microsoft last week released the first public beta of its federation technology.

Venkat Raghavan, manager of security products for IBM's software group, said. "The service needs to flexible enough and intelligent enough so our customers can use any type of mechanism to connect in."

Raghavan says TFIM caters to two sets of users, those using browser-based single sign-on to Web-based applications supported by SAML, Liberty or WS-Federation and those using a security token service, a sort of middleware that allows the exchange of tokens regardless of format. With TFIM, IBM supports user name and SAML tokens.

TFIM starts at $69 per user. IBM also plans to offer per-processor pricing.