PingID provides a "network" for processing federated identity transactions in the same way that Visa or Mastercard provides a network for processing credit card transactions. Network in this sense doesn't mean wires and routers, but rather the protocols, agreements, and legal framework that makes transactions between two unacquainted parties possible. Like Visa and Mastercard, PingID is member-owned, meaning that the companies who use the network have an equity stake in it.
According to the PingID web site, the PingID services include
- Standardized business agreements for federated identity.
- Standardized processes for resolving disputes
- Access to enhanced interoperability services.
I think the last one probably need more fleshing out, but anyone who contemplated establishing a single-sign-on (SSO) relationship with a customer that requires more than one party provide the service will understand the first two. When I used to build e-commerce services, our business model included lots of partners providing services to the merchants (we sold that right for quite a bit of money). We were trying to do SSO with 20-30 entities for our customers and it was a lot of work to maintain those relationships, code up the various terms and conditions that each entailed, and figure out who was at fault when something went wrong. PingID would have been a welcome partner.
A related entity is the SourceID open source project for identity management. The first SourceID project is an open source implementation of the Liberty Alliance specification for SSO. PingID and SourceID aren't formally related, as far as I can tell, but they have the same founder Andre Durand of Jabber. My take on this from talking to Andre and Eric Nolin is that SourceID is the pointy end of the SSO stick and PingID is the business network that ties it all together.