Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SPML – Not dead yet!

Lots of commentary over the last few weeks on SPML. Each of these is worth reading:
- Mark Diodati, Burton Group: SPML Is On Life Support
- Ingrid Melve, Feide: Provisioning, Will SPML emerge?
- Nishant Kaushik: Oracle: SPML Under The Spotlight Again?
- Jeff Bohren, Identity guru: Whither SPML or Wither SPML?

Mark Diodati kicked this all of with his post on SPML. Mark makes some pretty good points in his article.
None of the major provisioning vendors have developed an SPML v2-conformant product. Many of the vendors who have created commercial SPML connectors tell us that they must create specific SPML implementations for each of the major provisioning products. An SPML reference implementation does not exist, but would surely help.
Many of us in the industry waited around for the SPML v2 standard. It really was a V2 of the standard adding things like "modify" and "password" capabilities which actually made SPML useful. It's really unfortunate that many of the vendors haven’t adopted it. I dearly want to see SPML as the enabler of loosely-coupled identity architectures. Unfortunately, software vendors usually equate loosely-coupled with “easily replaceable” and the best way to prevent that is to either not support the standard or use custom capabilities that require a specific implementation like Mark refers to above.

My experience so far with SPML has been good. Quest Software supports SPML V2 in our ActiveRoles Server product. We have a number of customers who have used Sun’s Identity Manager to provision and manage Active Directory, Exchange and SharePoint by via ARS and its SPML provider. When SPML works it really works and the benefit is quite clear to the customer.

Jeff challenges us all with his comment “Until the enterprise systems support a common interface of some kind, provisioning will still be as problematic as it was 10 years ago.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ve done it. Is our implementation perfect? No, it’s not but if you use it and feel we’ve missed something or need to add something I’d like to hear from you.

Nishant states that perhaps Oracle is ready to take some leadership here: “I believe Oracle (led by folks like Prateek Mishra) will be looking to take some leadership in the evolution of the standard. Let’s see if we can turn things around.” I like what Nishant wrote and I liked his architectural view of how things could evolve. So my challenge to Nishant and Oracle is to show some leadership and just do it and do it right. Maybe if you do Microsoft and others might follow your lead? I’m hoping they will. There’s more to being a leader than just being in the upper-right of the magic quadrant!

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