Monday, November 30, 2009

NGAD update from Mary-Jo

If you don't follow Mary-Jo Foley's "All about Microsoft" blog you should. Mary-Jo has been writing about Microsoft for many years now. Her latest post is "Microsoft updates its enterprise ABC (Active Directory, BizTalk and Communications Server) roadmaps" and here's what she has to say about Active Directory:
Microsoft is readying a number of Active Directory add-ons that company officials are counting on to provide a backbone for the three-screens-and-a-cloud vision that Microsoft execs love to tout. The company is working on what it calls Next Generation Active Directory (NGAD), which is a federation service more than it is a whole new version of Active Directory. The goal is to enable users to “federate across all our directories — the phone, the PC and the cloud,” said Identity Architect Kim Cameron. Microsoft took a first step toward enabling NGAD (which so far, has no public due date) by releasing to interested parties in mid-November a downloadable schema application programming interface (API), system.identity. In the nearer term, Microsoft is planning to deliver the near-final Release Candidate (RC) test build of Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 before the end of this year and deliver the final version within the first quarter of 2010, Cameron said. ADFS 2.0 is one component of Microsoft’s “Geneva” identity platform. Microsoft released to manufacturing its Geneva framework piece (now known as Windows Identity Foundation) a week-plus ago.
There are still lots of questions about NGAD out there. Hopefully, over the next few months we'll get some answers...

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not much has changed on the directory front - until now!

Dave Kearns over at Network World just published a story stating that "Not much has changed on the directory front". When I first read the headline I knew I wanted to agree - and blog my views on his comments. However, just as I was getting ready to write this a significant change event on the directory front happened. John Fontana - also of Network World - reported from the Microsoft PDC that "Microsoft touts groundbreaking 'clip-on' for Active Directory". So let's discuss Dave's story first:

"Not much has changed on the directory front"
As I said, I couldn't agree more. In 1996, if my memory is correct, Netscape released their LDAP-based directory server. It effectively killed the X.500 directory and also resulted in the ultimate demise of X.400 for messaging. Over the next few years we saw the launch of the meta-directory by Zoomit and then, in 2000, the launch of Active Directory by Microsoft. Aside from virtual directories gaining more momentum I would say that since Active Directory there have been no major advances on the directory front. Netscape started things off but Microsoft crossed the finish line and now has the most deployed LDAP-based directory in the world.

I agree with Dave that nothing much has really changed - until now...

"Microsoft touts groundbreaking 'clip-on' for Active Directory"
Kim Cameron at Microsoft discussed Next Generation Active Directory (NGAD) at the Professional Developers Conference this week. NGAD has been described as "a modular add-on that is built on a database and designed to add querying capabilities and performance never before possible in a directory". Hopefully, the term "clip-on" is not equivalent to "clippie"!
NGAD, however, is not a replacement for Active Directory but a "clip-on" that provides developers a single programming API for building access controls into applications that can run either internally, on devices or on Microsoft's Azure cloud operating system. Users will not have to alter their existing directories but will have to option to replicate data to NGAD instances. NGAD stores directory data in an SQL-based database and utilizes its table structure and query capabilities to express claims about users such as "I am over 21" or "Henry is my manager." To ensure security, each claim is signed by an issuing source, such as a company, and the signatures stay with the claim no matter where it is stored.

"You can answer questions in your directory that are currently impossible to even ask," says Kim Cameron, identity architect at Microsoft. "You can find out who had access to a file last September." He says NGAD is a reshaping of the programming model for Active Directory.

In addition, the directory design means multitudes of new cloud or other applications won't be hammering the central Active Directory architecture with lookup requests and administrators don't have to perform often tricky updates to directory schema to support those new applications.
Of course, extrapolating features, functionality and benefits at this point is difficult but you can see how NGAD could change our views of auditing, compliance, security and (NGAD)directory-enabled programming including cloud-based identity and identity as a service. I'm also betting that NGAD will be a significant enabler of the externalization of a distributed authorization infrastructure just as Active Diretory has been an enabler of a distributed authentication infrastructure.

I believe NGAD has the potential to be a big change or even an inflection point for the industry and customers. I'm sure we'll be seeing much more discussion about NGAD.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Gartner: Directories and Virtual Directories: Foundations of Your IAM Infrastructure

Andrew Walls definition of today’s directory proliferation problem is quite appropriate: “I am Legion and we are many!”

Andrew talked about how virtual directories are “in fashion” these days. Interesting that when Andrew presented which vendors have a virtual directory that he put up Microsoft and IBM with question marks after them. His caution: Don’t assume that either of these vendors have these capabilities despite having info on their web site that they do. Andrew’s belief is that IBM and Microsoft don’t want their customers to look to another vendor to solve the virtual directory problem. I’m not sure about anyone else but I never believed either of these vendors had a virtual directory.

Andrew characterized meta-directory as storing data rather than fetching data like a virtual directory – and called them fundamentally the same. I disagree with this simple of a characterization but I certainly agree with Andrew’s statement that rapid deployment of a virtual directory is possible whereas in most cases you are not going to rapidly deploy a meta-directory.

Are meta-directory and virtual directory products melding – blurring the lines between themselves? Yes, and it’s high time that they did. Generally speaking, I think a customer can benefit from both of these technologies so why not use one product for that? Simple is always better. A virtual directory is the perfect veneer to stick on top of your directory infrastructure(s) because it allows you to swap underlying directory pieces in and out as your business changes.

And, I agree with Andrew’s comment that adding a virtual or meta-directory can hide the complexity of your infrastructure – it doesn’t fix it.

Gartner and The Death of IAM

Gartner IAM Conference

Earl Perkins kicked off the Gartner IAM summit with this talk: The Death of IAM and the Loss of Identity Innocence – A Review of Program Maturity, Service-Driven Change and New-Era Threats. Catchy title, eh?! It was certainly penned this way to draw attention to what Earl called an “inflection point” that is now happening in the IAM market.

Earl’s commentary centered around IAM – especially the “A” access part – accountability as the new phase of IAM. Gartner has clients who approach them daily who are now talking about replacing their first generation IAM systems – as Earl calls it, a “disaster summit” or a “do-over” conversation. In the area of governance (GRC) we are in the same place where we were with provisioning 5 years ago which means we are early and still have a long way to go in this area.

Earl see these trends in the “IAM Age of Accountability”:

- Externalization + decentralization = “The out is now in”

- Finding or identifying who is in charge

- “Scale” is becoming off the scale

- Delivery methods increase

- Expanding business process management

I think we have all seen much of the above. Much of this is being driven by the effects of compliance pressures on companies along with the drive to save money through the use of the “cloud”. It’s only going to get worse as federation begins to take off.

Earl also talked about the death of the IAM suite and birth of the IAM partnership. Not the actual, real death of the IAM suite but the importance of partnering with your IAM vendor and picking the right vendor that you can work with over time. While Earl didn’t say this nor do I think he meant that the magic quadrant is “dead” but I do wonder about customers who make IAM choices simply by looking at the MQ. Partnership cannot be measured by the Gartner MQ in my opinion.

Earl concluded by discussion how you map an IAM program into an information security program – taking you to serious business enablement, security effectiveness and security efficiency – where I expect we all want to end up.

I like how Earl characterized this as an “inflection point”. It’s a better term than saying IAM 2.0 or “next generation”. The fact of the matter is that market pressures (“requirements”) are causing the slope to change of companies needs in this area and by definition that is an inflection point. I do think that many of the early IAM products and suites are struggling with this inflection point whereas some of the newer vendors in these areas are able to cope with or build directly to this inflection point.

Interesting times for sure. For all of us – vendors and users.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Windows Identity Foundation release candidate now available

The Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) is now available as a release candidate per the Forefront Team Blog posting here.
Look for more information about "WIF" coming out of Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference, the week of Nov 16.
We are sending a number of our smart people to the PDC to check out WIF. This release will definitely mark the beginning of true market adoption of web-services based identity. (What we have seen so far has mostly been science experiments and very specific industry segment adoption)

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Friday, November 06, 2009

See you at Gartner's Identity Conference?

Gartner's Identity and Access Management conference starts this coming Monday in San Diego. Will you be there? I'll be there and Quest Software will also have a number of our IAM experts present along with a booth in the exposition area.

We'd love to see you so please drop by our speaking slots or come by our booth. I fully expect this to be an eventful conference - as usual!

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Security = smoke detectors?

We're always reading about fires and deaths that could have been prevented by smoke detectors. We are also always reading about security breaches that could have been prevented by having the proper software or policies in place.

I was reminded about this in "Better Security For Not Quite All" which appeared in ComputerWorld on November 2, 2009. The article isn't about a huge security breach but does discuss the difficulties and findings of just trying to enforce "screen locking" at the company in question:
We found that more than 70% of our approximately 6,000 users had disabled both the password requirement and the screen saver.
Clearly, these 6,000 users feel that their own convenience is more important than the company's security posture. This is, however, not too surprising is it? What was a bit more interesting were the results of the author's survey related to what other companies were doing:
When I proposed the change in our lockout policy to the CIO, he asked me to determine what other companies in our industry are doing. I have a pretty decent network of peers in this industry, so I asked them whether they enforce a screen lock -- and if so, what the timeout value is, and if not, what their policy regarding screen locks is. I was surprised by the results: Only one of the 20 companies in my survey enforces the screen lock. That wasn't the response I had anticipated, and it certainly wasn't what I wanted to report to the CIO. In the end, though, he agreed with me that this is one area where it's worth bucking the industry norm.
One in twenty? That's only 5%! I congratulate the author and his company for their choice to turn on the screen lock. I can only imagine that so many other firms haven't bothered to turn on such a basic security feature. It's cheaper than a smoke detector: If you're running Active Directory all you have to do is use Group Policy to turn this capability on.

Do you have a smoke detector installed? Is the battery still good? Have you tested it recently?

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Goodbye, Don

I first met Don Bowen when I was at Zoomit and we did an on-site presentation to him and his team. We flew from Ottawa and Toronto through a blizzard that shut down Chicago as we got the last plane out to Peoria, Illinois. It turned out we were the only vendor to make it through to Peoria and we won Caterpillar's business.

Don was a product manager's dream customer. Always had good ideas and new ways to use a product. He also stretched a product in ways it was never designed, pushed his vendors to do the right thing and was always ready to talk to you about life or technology - day or night. Whatever identity management conference I went to I would usually run into Don with his wife Eileen - especially at The Burton Group conferences.

Don had only one speed - full speed ahead - and that's how he attacked his brain cancer right to the end.

I'll miss you Don.

P.S. If you can, please help out Don's family via The Bowen Family Trust.

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