Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Safari of Identity

I thought I would have a bit of fun and continue my analogy about the jungle we often find ourselves in when dealing with the sticky issues (and often unknown) of identity and identity management.

African Safari's were plagued by slave trading until the British put a stop to it in 1896, in the shortest battle in history (38 minutes).  The past for identity has been similar, you were forced into solutions, sometimes without your consent - you didn't really know what was happening or that you were even solving what we call an "identity" problem now.  You were just trying to get authentication services to work perhaps.  You saw a problem and solved it.  Now you have choices, you are free to chose and the options are a bit more clear, but there is still a jungle, and navigating it can be difficult.

So, now you have choices, but just like going on Safari, never go without someone who has been there, just as Stanley and Livingstone never went without their native guides, the most famous of which were Chuma and Susi. These two were the ones who were responsible for carrying Livingstone's body thousands of miles so it could be transported back to England for a proper burial at Westminster Abby in 1874.  There are "guides" that don't specialize in much, they just "know everything".  Identity is unique and there are unique issues, you can't trust just any "data" expert.

So, first lesson with Identity Safari - don't' be a slave to the biggest company or solution, be creative and look around.  Second make sure your choice of products and consultants specialize in identity from the ground up.  Not just to add to their "global suite" of "stuff" they can sell you.  They really don't know what or why behind these solutions, such as virtual directories. 

I noticed an interesting short post from James McGovern in which he states:

"Mark Wilcox, Nishant Kaushik and others have discussed the virtues of virtual directories but have at some level done themselves a disservice by describing them as glorified proxies."

VERY TRUE! Here is an example of what I see as a failure to know your jungle. Do you need more than proxy?  OF COURSE!  But if you see virtual directories as nothing more than a glorified proxy service you are limiting your view of the jungle.  When your solution revolves around old ideas and paradigms you will have the same old results and complexity of the past.

The solution at this vantage point is that you need more help, more products, more data stores, complex synchronization, and then start searching for SOA solutions and new ideas of architecture they will recommend you adopt.  WAIT! STOP! Don't burn down the jungle just because you have a poor guide.  It's really not that difficult when you have the right information in hand, with tools prepared for now and what will come. 

I was going to post more about this misunderstand in the virtual directory market, but here is a good newsletter article from Oct 2007 that explains it well.  Check it out


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