MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (March 10, 1997) -- Netscape Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: NSCP) and more than 40 other leading companies including Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Oracle, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems and VeriSign today announced support for a core set of open standards for enabling external networks or Extranets. The open standards -- which include directory, security and software distribution standards -- provide a common blueprint for companies to create a new breed of "Crossware" applications that strengthen links with customers, partners, suppliers and distributors over a common Internet infrastructure. Widespread support for these open standards for use in Extranet deployments will help ensure interoperability between products from various vendors and will provide customers with a roadmap for implementing their Extranet networks and applications.
The more than 40 companies supporting Extranet open industry standards include: Actra, Atalla, Banyan, Brio, BulletProof, Check Point Software, Consensus Development, CSC Index, Diffusion, Digital Equipment Corporation, Entrust Technologies, Gemplus, GE Information Services, Grant Thornton LLP, Hewlett-Packard, Inference, Informix, InfoSpace, Inventa, Litronic, Lucent, MegaSoft Online, Motorola ISD, NetDynamics, Netscape Communications, Novell, OpenConnect Systems, Oracle, RSA Data Security, SCM Microsystems, SCO, Security Dynamics, Software.com, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, Sybase, Trilogy, Trusted Information Systems, Vasco Data Security, VeriSign, Wells Fargo Bank, Whistle Communications and WhoWhere?.
"Now that companies have seen the benefits of Intranets, they are looking to extend that same online communications model to their outside suppliers, customers and partners," said Marc Andreessen, senior vice president of technology at Netscape. "Internet technologies and open standards deliver the infrastructure for this new generation of Crossware applications - that is, applications that seamlessly cross multiple operating systems, firewalls, databases, hardware platforms and business Intranets. With major companies lining up behind a common set of Extranet standards, enterprise customers can expect true interoperability between applications from a variety of companies going forward."
The core set of standards embraced by the companies supporting Crossware applications include:
- Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), an open standard format for storing contact and network
resource information, for registering Web clients and application servers in a directory, and for storing
certificates in a directory. LDAP is in its third revision and is guided by the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF) standards body.
- S/MIME, an open standard for sending secure e-mail messages using certificate-based encryption and
authentication. S/MIME is part of the RSA Labs Public Key Cryptographic Standard (PKCS) framework.
- X.509 Certificates Version 3, originally defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), this open specification for electronic credentials,
similar to a driver's license, is used for strong authentication and encryption, and is currently an IETF Internet draft.
- vCard, an open standard for storing and presenting contact or registration information. vCard is part of the
Versit consortium and has been submitted to the IETF as a proposed Internet standard.
- Signed Objects, an open standard format for automating trusted software and document distribution defined by
the JavaSoft JAR specification.
- EDI INT, standards for implementing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) within the Internet protocol suite. The EDI INT open standard is managed by an IETF working group which has published several drafts on implementing EDI over Internet protocols.
"Sun clearly supports this initiative," commented Dr. Eric Schmidt, chief technical officer of Sun Microsystems, Inc. "Open standards like the ones announced today are critical to protecting the existing investments that customers have made in information technology. In addition, these open Extranet standards will enable fundamentally new methods of 'business-to-business' collaboration across a wide variety of platforms. Sun is delighted to be a part of the effort."
"Crossware" describes "on-demand" software applications that run across networks and operating systems, and easily extend to partners and customers. Crossware is built on open standards and is uniquely suited to automate the information flow and extend the corporate Intranet to the entities a company does business with - customers, prospective customers, suppliers, distributors, resellers, dealers, outsourcers, contract manufacturers and consultants.
This type of application is in sharp contrast to traditional applications that are tied to particular operating system versions, which can't scale or be extended beyond the firewall. Crossware applications offer the following advantages:
- Seamless interoperability -- Major client operating systems, including multiple versions of the same operating
system, and non-PC devices such as Network Computers can access Crossware applications, and major server
operating systems and platforms can host Crossware applications -- without changing a line of code. In
addition, Crossware applications can access data and application logic stored in databases, mainframes and
- Central deployment and management -- With server-based application logic, Crossware can be deployed and
then updated to thousands or even millions of users instantly.
- Extreme scalability -- Crossware is deployed as modular components that can be partitioned and replicated
across a large set of servers and extended to a virtually unlimited number of users.
- On-demand access and ease of use -- With highly interactive and dynamic interfaces written in HTML,
- Protected network environment -- Security features can be deployed on a global basis across resources, allowing the network to be used for a broad range of applications, including those that are highly sensitive and private.
"Our core competency has always been managing extended enterprise electronic commerce communities," said Bruce Chovnick, GE Information Services vice president of Internet Consulting and Services. "We see these Extranet standards as further enhancing our portfolio of end-to-end services for businesses that want to do electronic commerce over the Internet."
"HP is helping customers take advantage of the opportunity to build their own Extended Enterprises based on Internet technologies through our extensive work with standards bodies," said Fred Luiz, division general manager, HP Internet Technology Group. "The Crossware initiative is a positive step towards creating a set of standards that our customers can rely upon as they build their Extranets. We look forward to contributing to the efforts in areas such as digital signatures and other security technologies."
The companies supporting the collection of open standards today released an initial draft of a white paper entitled
"Overview of Extranet Standards." This white paper describes Extranet standards. The companies intend to release in the
second quarter of this year a detailed white paper called, "Blueprint for Extranet Standards Implementation" which
describes how to leverage Crossware technologies across the enterprise. Other standards will be added to this
blueprint as they become available.