Tools to align developers, ID infrastructure efforts

The tools needed to help ease the task of integrating corporate identity management systems and applications are finally starting to emerge and will represent the next big breakthrough in the technology, according to research firm the Burton Group.

That reality, along with others delving into security, telecomm and collaboration, will be explored this week at the Burton Group's annual Catalyst Conference in San Francisco. The conference runs from June 14-16.

"The biggest change in the past year for identity and access management has to do with the tooling and frameworks," says Jamie Lewis, president of the Burton Group. "When you look at how developers build applications, identity functions have never been surfaced in their tools at a level of parity compared to other complex underlying functions."

The spin off is that developers are reluctant to build their applications to incorporate identity systems that IT is deploying.

Lewis, who says he has been beating this drum for years, says identity infrastructures that companies are spending millions to build won't reach their full potential as long as developers are forced to use specific tools to incorporate identity.

Lewis uses the failed promise of PKI as an example citing the fact that developers using a tool like Microsoft's Visual Studio has to switch to a different and unique set of tools to tie PKI features to their applications.

"Developers have to break stride. All of sudden they have to become world-class cryptographers," says Lewis.

Lewis, however, says the past year has shown that tooling is starting to come along.

He cites the introduction in March of the Higgins Project, a framework for integrating identity services and applications, and Microsoft's recent inclusion of CardSpace (formerly InfoCard), it's user-centric identity technology, as a component of its .Net 3.0 programming framework.

And this week, Novell is introducing at Catalyst its Bandit Project, an open source set of services that incorporate existing protocols such as WS-*, the Liberty Alliance standards and Higgins.

Novell hopes Bandit will become a sort of standard bus that identity-enabled applications and back-end identity systems can plug into. Applications would basically need only to hook in via a generic adapter, say for authentication, and then IT could plug in whatever authentication mechanism it wants.

"A lot of what this gets at is that if developers use Bandit components for applications or Web services they get a consistent view of identity," says Dale Olds, a distinguished engineer for Novell. "But there are also distinct advantages for system administrators who can make identity decisions at runtime."

The Bandit project initially will develop four services: authentication, identity, roles and auditing.

"We are seeing good things here. The tooling and building frameworks that take identity into account are all excellent signs," says Burton's Lewis.

The kicker, however, is that none of this is yet available. Higgins is expected in mid-2007 and .Net 3.0 will be available in conjunction with Microsoft's Vista in January 2007. Bandit is just getting off the ground.

Tooling and frameworks are not the only identity themes that are on the Burton agenda.

Lewis says the past year of consolidation, in which many vendors have used acquisition to build suites of identity components, is now bringing new players to the forefront such as Oracle.

"Oracle is sort of the new kid on the block and it is always disruptive to have a new kid on the block," says Lewis.

Lewis says consolidation might not be over and another round of mergers and acquisitions could emerge over the next 18-24 months.

Lewis says one interesting spin off from the first round of consolidation is that a lot of companies that Microsoft partnered with to fill gaps in its identity platform have been acquired, such as Oracle's acquisition of Oblix.

"It is an interesting dynamic," says Lewis, who adds the death of the point-product is greatly exaggerated with companies like Courion, M-Tech and Fisher International finding footholds in the market.

Other burning questions involve how Microsoft plans to license CardSpace to other vendors and ISVs who want to incorporate the technology into their products. The company so far has been hush on its plans.

Besides identity, the Catalyst conference will focus on application architecture, security and risk management, network and telecommunications, and collaboration and communication.

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