I was party to a short, but interesting internal e-mail debate yesterday about federation. One view was that it was never going to amount to much due to politics and complexity. The other view was that it is starting to take off in certain scenarios and could potentially grow much bigger albeit the socio-political and complexity ramifications still loom.
I figured the debate was more or less over after a few e-mails but then I happened to read John Fontana's Network World article titled Microsoft switching SharePoint to claims-based authentication. So I'll switch the debate from internal e-mail to my blog and state that it will be scenarios that applications like SharePoint enable that will propel federation forward. Second, to see that Microsoft is opening up such a critical piece of their collaboration platform to federation and non-Active Directory authentication is both amazing and awesome.
I learned a lot about making products and technologies "viral" while I was at Microsoft. Bundling SharePoint services with the server operating system did just that - it introduced SharePoint to tens of thousands of companies and, at the same time, enabled those pesky administrators to build SharePoint sites with no IT oversight. Result? Hundreds of SharePoint sites at most companies before IT even knew how to spell SharePoint. Now Microsoft is going to enable SharePoint to be downloaded without having to purchase a server. The result will be that nearly everyone will become infected. (Need some free software to determine how many SharePoint sites you have? Click here.)
Add federation to the mix and the result is a federated, collaboration solution that nearly anyone will be able to "stand up". Yes, it may be complicated to set up but the admins can figure that out and while the various IT committees and internal standards groups are meeting in conference rooms with poor air circulation and no windows a whole new class of federated SharePoint sites will be springing up from the earth...
SharePoint, Microsoft, Active Directory Federation Services, Active Directory, LDAP, WS-*, SAML, Quest Software