Requirements for - and context of - the future Identity Fabric. 

We call it Digital Transformation for lack of a better term, but it consists of much more than this buzzword is able to convey. Digital technologies are influencing and changing all areas of a company, and this is fundamentally reshaping the way communication takes place, how people work together and how customers are delivered value. 

IT architectures, in turn, are undergoing profound structural transformations to enable and accelerate this creeping paradigm shift. This evolution reflects the changes resulting from the changing challenges facing companies, government agencies and educational institutions. These challenges, which virtually every organization worldwide has faced for a long time, change processes and systems in the same way that they affect the underlying architectures.

In order to survive in this highly competitive environment, companies are striving to be as agile as possible by adapting and modifying business models and, last but not least, opening up new communication channels with their partners and customers. Thanks to the rapidly growing spread of cloud and mobile computing, companies are becoming increasingly networked with each other. The very idea of an outer boundary of a company, the concept of a security perimeter, have practically ceased to exist.

And with that the idea that different identities can be treated fundamentally isolated in one enterprise has come to an end. 

The Road to Integrated, Hybrid and Heterogeneous IAM Architectures​Figure: The Road to Integrated, Hybrid and Heterogeneous IAM Architectures

Managing identities and access in digital transformation is the key to security, governance and audit, but also to usability and user satisfaction. The challenges for a future-proof IAM are complex, diverse and sometimes even contradictory:

  • We need to integrate consumers into the system, but they often want to retain control over their identity by bringing their own identity (BYOID).
  • We want our employees (internal and external) to be able to use the end-user devices they prefer to use to gain secure access to their work environment, wherever they are.
  • We need to link identities and model real-life dependencies within teams, companies, families or our partner organizations.
  • Maybe we even want to trust identities that are maintained in other organizations and reliably integrate them and authorize them in our IAM.
  • We need to integrate identity, payment and trade.
  • We need to comply with laws and regulations and yet eliminate annoying KYC processes making site visitors leave without completing registration.
  • We want to use existing data to enable artificial intelligence for ongoing business transformation, while ensuring compliance, consent and customer security.
  • We need to extend identities beyond people and integrate devices, services and networks into our next-generation IAM infrastructure.

Workforce mobility, rapidly changing business models and business partnerships are all contributing to a trend where companies need to be able to seamlessly provide access for everyone and to any digital service. These services can be in a public cloud, they can be web applications with or without support of federation standards, they can solely be backend services accessed through APIs, or even legacy applications accessible only through some kind of middleware. However, the agility of the digital journey requires IT to provide seamless access to all these services while maintaining control and enforcing security.

In a nutshell: We need to reconsider IAM as a whole and step by step transform it into a set of services which allow to connect everything via an overarching architecture, making our services available to everyone, everywhere, without losing control.

KuppingerCole Analysts strongly support the concept of Identity Fabrics as a logical infrastructure that enables access for all, from anywhere to any service while integrating advanced approaches such as support for adaptive authentication, auditing capabilities, comprehensive federation services, and dynamic authorization capabilities. In this context, it is of no importance where and in which deployment model IT services are provided. These can be legacy services encapsulated in APIs, current standard services either “as a service” or in your own data center and future digital offerings. Identity fabrics are designed to integrate these services regardless of where they are provided, i.e. anywhere between on-premises, hybrid, public or private clouds, managed by MSPs or in outsourcing data centers, or completely serverless.

We expect Identity Fabrics to be an integral part of current and future architectures for many organizations and their IT. Future issues of KuppingerColes Analysts' View on IAM will look at this topic from multiple perspectives, with particular emphasis on architectural, technical and process-related aspects. KuppingerCole Analysts research will explore this concept of "One IAM for the Digital Age" in detail and KuppingerCole Advisory clients will be among the first to benefit from sophisticated identity fabric architectures. Watch this space, especially our blogs and our research for more to come on all things “Identity Fabric”. And remember: You’ve heard it here at KC first.

See also