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InCommon Provides Online Identity Management Platform for Microsoft DreamSpark Program


U.S. identity federation allows students to access Microsoft DreamSpark program without releasing personal information.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — InCommon, the first nationwide U.S. identity management federation for higher education, and Microsoft Corp. today announced that InCommon’s platform will be the preferred verification method for U.S. students to access software in Microsoft’s DreamSpark program. Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, announced the DreamSpark offering at a special event held at Stanford University in February. DreamSpark provides professional development and design tools free of charge to students in 10 countries around the world.

“Microsoft’s participation in the InCommon Federation provides us with a more seamless and scalable pathway to collaborating with our important university partners,” said Jim Pinkelman, director of U.S. Academic Relations for Microsoft. “We look forward to working with the Federation to engage members of the university community in a new way by extending a more user- and privacy-friendly environment that can provide access to a wider array of Microsoft’s online resources.”

The InCommon Federation is a nonprofit organization and subsidiary of Internet2, which serves the U.S. higher education sector. The Federation has close to 2 million users at over 80 higher education institutions and service providers and continues to rapidly expand. The InCommon Federation works by linking a resource provider’s online system to a partner university’s identity management system. When a student logs in to the resource provider site, they are asked for their university credentials. The university system is then able to “vouch for” or “authenticate” the student, staff or faculty to enable their access to that online resource without releasing an individual’s personal information. Personal information release can be adjusted and controlled easily, based on the partnership between the university and the online resource.

In this case, students interested in downloading software available through the DreamSpark program, which includes Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, Microsoft Expression Studio, Windows Server Standard Edition and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition, will have their student status verified by participating InCommon universities. Microsoft’s DreamSpark will confirm the students’ enrollment status by redirecting students to log in to their home university, which will, in turn, pass the “student” attribute on to DreamSpark.

“With so many resources online and available to the university community today, the ability to provide a wide array of services while controlling privacy for our students and faculty has become a paramount concern within higher education,” said Lois Brooks, Stanford University’s director of academic computing and vice chair of the InCommon Federation steering committee. “Microsoft’s participation in the InCommon Federation represents a major step forward in helping to realize the vision of federated identity management. This framework allows us to create more robust alliances with providers like Microsoft to share protected online information and Web resources in a security-enhanced environment while helping protect the privacy of our campus users.”


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