Issues that will shape ID mgmt. over the next year
* Thoughts from the Burton Group's Catalyst conference

By Dave Kearns, Network World, 07/18/05
Dave Kearns

The Burton Group's Catalyst conference has always provided interesting and thought provoking topics for this newsletter and last week's 11th annual meeting in San Diego was no different. Jamie Lewis, Burton CEO, once again did a great job of framing the conversations that will probably dominate the identity management space over the next year.

The issues he thought would be dominant between now and the next Catalyst conference in Orlando next July are: polycentric identity, identity management suites and federation.

Polycentric identity management combines the traditional enterprise view of identity management - hierarchical, top-down and centered around administrators - with the emerging world of "usercentric" identity management.

According to Lewis, usercentric identity management refers to a group of systems and technologies such as Microsoft's InfoCard (especially as interpreted by Kim Cameron for his "Seven Laws of Identity"), Lightweight digital Identity (LID), the Sxip network and more. In these systems, the user - not the enterprise or the government - is in control of the digital identity information. It's only by accommodating these two, seemingly disparate, views of identity that we can move forward, said Lewis. Ignoring one or the other will never accomplish the goal of embedding identity management into the fabric of computing.

Lewis also mentioned the progress of identity management tools, utilities and services into well-organized suites offered by the major vendors in the identity space (Sun, IBM, Novell, BMC, Oracle, etc.). He and Mike Neuenschwander, associate research director at Burton, emphasized that no one vendor had yet fully integrated all identity management functions into a single suite of products. They both stated that the era of the suite was now passing by and that the future lay with modular services within a Web services/service oriented architecture framework from one or more vendors was the wave of the future.

The third area Lewis emphasized was federation. As part of the conference, Senior Burton Analyst Gerry Gebel organized an interoperability event in which a dozen vendors showed federation scenarios using multiple sets of protocols (SAML, Liberty Alliance, WS-federation, Shibboleth, etc.) to connect one to another. Lewis' take was that convergence of standards was still a hope rather than a possibility and that those vendors who moved to enable interoperability would be the winners as federation finally takes off over the next 12 to 24 months.

None of these points should come as a surprise to most of you. We've been talking about them among ourselves for the past year. Now, Lewis is saying, the conversation will grow to include not only those of us in the identity management community but also those outside of it who influence the directions in which we need to go - our managers, partners and the general business community.

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