Reminiscing about identity and access management (IAM)

Ten years ago identity and access management (IAM) was nicely compartmentalised and relatively easy to understand. There were a dozen vendors in the market and after deciding a company’s size and propensity for an enterprise directory, it was relatively easy to define a solution. I enjoyed visiting clients, listening to how vendors had bamboozled them and then recommending to them a succinct way forward to reaching their IAM goals. Then the “Cloud” came.

All of a sudden it was necessary to throw out the old paradigm of a central directory and firewalls at the perimeter, and figure out how to avoid opening up the enterprise directory to the world. At the same time, it was necessary to determine how to service SaaS applications without synchronising identity data to the Cloud. With the HR and IM systems on the internal network and the SaaS applications on the Internet some “magic” was needed. But solutions were available and Cloud providers developed support for identity in the Cloud and the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) protocol, to varying degrees. Then came BYOD.

All of a sudden users were coming from anywhere. They could no longer be relied upon to use the company’s SOE, no longer were they inside the corporate network and their devices could be used by anyone from anywhere.

But solutions are coming, there are now new ways of supporting access from anywhere by anyone at any time. The development of protocols such as OAuth and FIDO provide solid security for external access to protected corporate documents and data.

But now there’s IoT – how do we manage the identity of things? How do we allow secure access to Corporate facilities? And what about Blockchain technology? Is it appropriate for situations where components of identity can be distributed across multiple data repositories?

How do we keep up and extend our frameworks to make sense of these challenges or take advantage of these opportunities?

One way I have found invaluable is to attend the European Identity and Cloud Conference (EIC) 2016 which takes place May 10-13, 2016 in Munich Germany. It brings together 50 vendors, 120 speakers and more than 600 participants all with one common goal – to understand the paradigm change and forge new solutions as technology changes. I particularly like talking to vendors who are developing innovative solutions to overcome constraints caused by technology. I particularly like getting in front of a whiteboard with end-users that have solved a particular problem or leveraged new technology for an innovative solution. Each year I find it necessary to extend my understanding of the IAM framework to accommodate a new direction or a new technology. This year it is Blockchain.

No, we haven’t figured out how it will change IAM but in 5 year’s time it will be obvious.

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