Identity as a Service

Some days ago, I had a very interesting discussion with John de Santis and some of his colleagues from TriCipher, one of the vendors which provide IaaS (Identity as a Service) solutions, in that case particularly with their MyOneLogin service. That discussion is one in a row of others I had with several of the other vendors in the IaaS space like Multifactor Authentication, Arcot Systems, or Ping Identity, to mention just a few.

On the other hand, my colleague Jörg Resch (currently very active in organizing the European Identity Conference 2009, where we will have, amongst many other topics around thought leadership and best practice for IAM and GRC, definitely much content about IaaS) some weeks ago asked me about my opinion about approaches like Facebook Connect and related standards (Google Friend Connect, Myspace Data Availability) and, as a result, my overall opinion about IaaS. First of all, the positive things with all these initiatives is that they address the lock-in issues in todays social networks, which I've discussed more than a year ago in this blog (by the way a discussion we've started at our European Identity Conference 2007).

So where is the link between these two discussions? It is all about the way we can and should deal with identities in the future. In business as well as privately. First of all, identity is core to any of these initiatives like cloud computing and SaaS or Enterprise 2.0 or Web 2.0 - even while many people haven't understood the impact of identity yet. How will you ever fulfill compliance requirements in an IT infrastructure which consists of multiple SaaS services provided by different companies as well as some still existing internal IT services? How is allowed to do what in that environment? Just think about SoD controls across multiple SaaS services... How do we control the way our employees act in the Internet, still representing our company? What about consistency and reliability there? How about the integration of Web 2.0 services into the enterprise, for corporate use - that what sometimes is called Enterprise 2.0 (I use this term here even while most of the 2.0-terms are just ridiculous)?

It is interesting to observe that there are some initiatives and products trying to address at least some of the problems. Vendors start providing strong authentication as a service, sometimes focused on authenticating to SaaS. Social networks start to open up, even while there is a lack of standards. Information cards might become virtual corporate business cards.

Thus, we have some standards (like OpenID, Information Cards and the underlying federation standards, XACML,...), some IaaS services (mainly for authentication and federation and some provisioning), and some proprietary approaches for exchanging information from social networks. Many areas like policy management and auditing aren't covered yet. And in the area of social networks, there should be one standard, which might make use of Information Cards instead of some vendor implementations. From my perspective, we are still at the very beginning of the IaaS market. We will need to create more standards and implement more use cases. There is a lot of room for vendors and service providers.

From a corporate perspective, we will observe approaches where companies fully rely on IaaS, putting everything into the cloud. There will be companies which use just some cloud services, like federation or strong authentication. And there will be companies which still mainly rely on their own IAM and GRC infrastructure, with the need to integrate that with cloud services they use.

Today, you can't fully rely on IaaS but enhance your IAM and GRC infrastructure with some very interesting solutions to become more flexible in your move to cloud computing. But you definitely should analyze which opportunities IaaS provides - and how to do IAM and GRC for cloud computing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 and all these other initiatives.

Not to forget: I'd like to once again ask for your participation in our current surveys. Thanks!



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