Kearns' column: Finding the real BrainShare buzz

Recently I made my annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City for Novell's BrainShare event. While there was a sense of excitement among the attendees, there was also a sense of puzzlement about the show's big announcements.

While the Internet Caching Appliance and digitalme garnered headlines, they aren't products or initiatives that appeal to net administrators. Instead, they're aimed at a new target market - ISPs.

Fortunately, I was rewarded on the last day when Drew Major (the geek's geek) and his sidekick Glenn Ricart outlined a future expansion of BorderManager that will act as what they called an identity broker. The identity broker combines directory services with proxy services in new ways - ways that will ultimately benefit the user, content owner and network administrator.

The most compelling example of the forthcoming services was graded authentication, in which a user's access to network data and objects is governed not only by a user's identity, but also by a user's access method. Sensitive data can be restricted so it's accessible only by authorised users and only when they use secure access methods.

Another identity broker service moves all Web site passwords and cookies into the directory controlled by the identity broker proxy. No more storing password lists on an end user's local PC. Instead, once you've initially logged on to a Web site (and given the information to the identity broker), the proxy will authenticate you in the background whenever you access that site. And as long as you use the proxy services of the identity broker, you can use any client machine without having to remember authentication information.

However, if you prefer to access some sites anonymously, identity broker will handle that for you by throwing away the cookie sent by the site. It will throw away the cookie - not reject it - because rejection would mean some sites would deny you access. Visit the Full Service Directory Web site (http://www.novell.com/corp/strategy/fsd/), for more information.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.

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