Metadirectory and claims

My friend and long-time collaborator Jackson Shaw seems to have intrigued both Dave Kearns and Eric Norlin in an  amusing (if wicked) post called You won't have me to kick around anymore

You won't have me to kick around anymore!

No, not me. Hewlett-Packard.

I heard about a month ago that HP was going to bow out of the IDM business. I didn't want to post anything because I felt it would compromise the person that told me. But, now that it has made the news:

Check out Burton Group's blog entry on this very topic

Burton Group has been contacted by HP customers who report that HP is no longer going to seek new customers for its Identity Center product. We have contacted HP and the company confirms that HP Software has decided to focus its investment in identity management products exclusively on existing customers and not on pursuing additional customers or market share. HP is in the process of reaching out to each customer regarding the change.

Seriously – you thought HP was a contender in this space???!!! No, no, Nanette. Thanks for playing. Mission failure…

Let's be honest. The meta-directory is dead. Approaches that look like a meta-directory are dead. We talk about Identity 2.0 in the context of Web services and the evolution of digital identity but our infrastructure, enterprise identity “stuff” is decrepit and falling apart. I have visions of identity leprosy with this bit and that bit simply falling off because it was never built with Web services in mind…

There is going to be a big bang in this area. HP getting sucked into the black hole is just a step towards that…

As graphic as the notion of identity leprosy might be, it was the bit on metadirectory that prompted Dave Kearns to write,

That’s a quote from Quest’s Jackson Shaw. Formerly Microsoft’s Jackson Shaw. Formerly Zoomit’s Jackson Shaw. This is a guy who was deeply involved in metadirectory technology for more than a dozen years. I can only hope that Microsoft is listening.

Back at Jackson's blog we find out that he was largely responding to a session he liked very much given by Neil MacDonald at a recent Gartner Conference.  It was called “Everything You Know About Identity Management Is Wrong.”  Observing that customers are dissatisfied with the cost of hand tailoring their identity and access management, Jackson says,

Neil also introduced the concept of “Identity as a service” to the audience. At the Directory Experts Conference, John Fontana wrote “Is Microsoft’s directory, identity management a service of the future?“   What I am stating is quite simple: I believe a big-bang around identity is coming and it will primarily be centered around web services. I hope the resultant bright star that evolves from this will simplify identity for both web and enterprise-based identity infrastructure.

Active Directory, other directories and metadirectory “engines” will hopefully become dial tone on the network and won't be something that has to be managed – at least not to the level it has to be today.

Without getting overly philosophical, there is a big difference between being, metaphorically,  a “dial tone” – and being “dead”.   I buy Jackson's argument about dial tone, but not about “dead”. 

Web services allow solutions to be hooked together on an identity bus (I called it a backplane in the Laws of Identity).  Claims are the electrons that flow on that bus.  This is as important to information technology as the development of printed circuit boards and ICs were to electronics.  Basically, if we were still hand-wiring our electronic systems, personal computers would be the size of shopping centers and would cost billions of dollars.  An identity bus offers us the possibility to mix and match services in a dynamic way with potential efficiencies and innovations of the same magnitude.

In that sense, claims-based identity drastically changes the identity landscape.

But you still need identity providers.  Isn't that what directories do?  You still need to transform and arbitrate claims, and distribute metadata.  Isn't metadirectory the most advanced technology for that?  In fact, I think directory / metadirectory is integral to the claims based model.  From the beginning, directory allowed claims to be pulled.  Metadirectory allowed them to be pulled, pushed, synchronized, arbitrated and integrated.  The more we move toward claims, the more these capabilities will become important. 

The difference is that as we move towards a common, bus-based architecture, these capabilities can be simplified and automated.   That's one of the most interesting current areas of innovation. 

Part of this process will involve moving directory onto web services protocols.  As that happens, the ability to dispatch and assemble queries in a distributed fashion will become a base functionality of the system – that's what web services are good at.  So by definition, what we now call ”virtual directory” will definitely be a base capability of emerging identity systems.

Leave a Reply