IBM expands identity management tools

IBM Corp.'s planned purchase of software vendor Access360 should significantly improve the security capabilities of its Tivoli Systems Inc. product line and potentially change the character of the identity management market, according to analysts.

IBM last week said it plans to buy Irvine, Calif.-based Access360, which develops identity management software, for an undisclosed price.

Upon regulatory approval of the deal, which is expected next month, privately held Access360 will join IBM's US$13 billion software group. Its products will become part of the Tivoli portfolio, IBM's line of IT management software.

Access360's software and services are aimed at helping large companies automate the process of granting, modifying or revoking user access rights to various applications based on roles or other policies.

The deal brings new workflow and self-service capabilities to IBM's aging Tivoli identity manager technology, said Chris King, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

"IBM knows this is a hot market, but the products that it's had have been trailing for quite some time," King said.

For example, Tivoli's identity management software works only within the Tivoli framework, which makes it less flexible than many rival technologies, he said. By purchasing Access360, IBM will get some of the best technology in this market, King said.

IBM's acquisition comes at a time when demand for identity management software seems to be growing. Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC predicts that sales of security management software, which includes identity management, will grow 30 percent annually, from $550 million in 2001 to $2 billion in 2006.

Driving much of the demand is the growing need within corporations to manage user identities in an easier and more cost-efficient manner, said James Governor, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.

Currently, a wide variety of point products is available to help address different parts of the identity management problem. Companies such as Netegrity Inc. in Waltham, Mass., sell Web access control software. Directory management technologies are available from vendors including Oblix Inc. in Cupertino, Calif., while companies such as Courion Corp. in Framingham have developed password reset and user management technologies.

"What you have is a common pain point with incredibly varied solutions," said Pete Lindstrom, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc., in Framingham. But that may change, he added, as more vendors offer integrated identity-management suites like the one IBM is attempting to gain with its purchase of Access360.

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