The European Identity Conference 2008 closed its doors last Friday, and for me it has been a fantastic event in all aspects. Obviously you should take my comments with a grain of salt as I am working for Kuppinger Cole and am therefore part of the organising team. However, I have never before attended a conference that combined such a breadth of topics, number and quality of speakers and depth. Many conferences are either at the "C*O level" or pure "geek conferences". At the former, the geeks still intermingle since they are brought to the event to do exactly that, or to showcase their solutions. At the latter, it's mostly tech-talk, pure and deep. EIC 2008 covered the whole range and therefore appealed to everyone as well as offering unique opportunities to learn more about the topics from other points of view.
The agenda was packed, and including BoFs (bird of feather sessions) many days went straight from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening. I was actually surprised that so many people actually showed up at 7 AM for the integrated breakfast + BoF sessions. And yes - unfortunately having many tracks going on in parallel can be frustrating for those who are interested in multiple topics at once. But I think the track organisation has been done pretty well after a lot of fine-tuning, and besides - we'd all love to meet for two weeks, but nobody in charge would sign off on the travel request! :-)
The identity federation track that I moderated was packed to the brim. Good to know - we definitely need a larger room for next time! Some people were standing, and we had to open the windows. Conor Cahill kicked off the track to give a overview of the technology within the area. He had a lot of ground to cover, and since the agenda was packed, I joked that he had agreed to speak faster in order to keep the presentation to 30 minutes. In fact that's exactly what he did - finishing with still 5 minutes left for questions. He just emailed me his presentation and it will go online tomorrow to join all the other presentations already downloadable (those who attended the conference will have received the link). We followed with an experts panel discussing the current state of federation technology and where it's likely to go, and where new technologies such as information cards will fit in. After that we had two user presentations: Anton Shmagin from the United Nations talked about a unique multi-technology and multi-protocol federated circle of trust in three months and how the organisational, political and of course technical challenges were solved. After that, Brian Puhl spoke about Identity Federation tales from the trenches at Microsoft. Brian is a real barnstormer and his presentations are excellent, funny, insightful and offer many nuggets of information that you wouldn't get anywhere else. He is in Microsoft's IT department, and in charge of Microsoft's internal Active Directory systems. He uses the term "dogfooding" to describe what he is often asked to do - use beta versions coming from devlopment and putting them to production use in such a large environment - and then putting out the fires. I'm sure he has many of the developers'mobile phone numbers on speed dial! After the user presentation we had a vendor panel, which gave everybody the chance to exchange jabs and score points, as well as explain their specific vision and value-add. And we could have gone on, but there were only three hours for the track - hardly enough to "cover it all". Several presentations on federation were also to be found on some of the other tracks and workshops and usually very well attended - an indicator on how important the topic is.
Conferences give a unique opportunity to meet up with peers, and for me this has been the perfect opportunity to network with users, customers, vendors and experts in the field. One of my personal highlights has been a 45 minute talk with Dave Kearns, Kim Cameron, Jackson Shaw and Dave Olds where we discussed the future "identity bus" concept that Microsoft's Stuart Kwan introduced at the Directory Expert Conference in March. Following that announcement there's been quite a bit of speculation of what such an "identity bus" might look like, and what it would replace. In my opinion, this "identity bus" would be the future fundament of identity management, like today's directory services. Our discussion has been videotaped, and our camera man Bernd almost broke down after carrying that heavy camera on his shoulder once the interview was over.
Joerg also sent me out with Bernd the camera man to do several video interviews with some of the important players in the space. These interviews are currently being converted into streamable format and will be posted on this site "real soon now" (TM). Watch this space :-)