MDM, EAI, IAM, Data Quality

At a workshop I have held yesterday I had an interesting conversation about some aspects of IAM - especially the way, IAM products are developed without reuse of existing technologies. The discussion isn't really new to me. I have discussed some of the aspects some five or six years ago with one of the leading IAM vendors. A fruitless discussion, by the way.

MDM, e.g. Master Data Management, is a concept for building and maintaining master data, for example for supplier data or material data. There is no real difference to what meta directory services are providing. The only real differentiator are the specific connectors. But the basic concepts are the same. The concept of delivering data quality is inherent to MDM, sometimes based on sophisticated pattern matching approaches. That raises the question: Why don't we use these technologies for many of the aspects which are done today by proprietary IAM products?

EAI, e.g. Enterprise Application Integration, is an approach for using sort of bus systems to connect different systems and to exchange any type of information. Some two days ago a vendor told me that some of its customers are using EAI (or enterprise service busses) to exchange SPML for the integration of different provisioning systems. Siemens, by the way, used such a technology some time ago. The customers argued about the complexity of this approach. On the other hand such technologies are widely deployed in larger corporations, are very flexible regarding their connection to databases and the core business applications, and ensure a reliable transport. Thus, they often provide functionality which is missing for example in provisioning systems. Again this raises the "why" question.

The provisioning-specific workflows are another example, even while the vendors start to fix this and to support other, external workflow systems which often offer a broader functionality and interfaces to process management tools.

My answer to the "why"-questions is pretty easy (and in fact, it are two answers): I assume that many of the architects of today's aren't familiar with the concepts I've mentioned and other important IT concepts. And you can't use what you don't know. The second part of the answer is: In the first step it is much easier to build a system without integrating these sometimes pretty complex approaches. But on the long run it's inefficient.

Besides this there are two perspectives: From the IAM only perspective using MDM or EAI as a foundation leads to more complex products. From an overall IT perspective, it leads to less complexity. Thus, it is also a question of the point-of-view. Anyway: I believe that it a least will be helpful to have a look beyond the common IAM approaches. That's what vendors really should do these days. The example of workflows which are more and more externalized proves that there is some need to do that. By the way: Doing that might as well lead to new competition. Think about MDM or EAI specialists and some other company which focuses on connectors. There might be interesting business models for both of them to successfully compete in the IAM business.

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