Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner, Gil Allouche, AppNeta Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Industrial IoT, Open Source Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Turning Identity-as-a-Service Inside Out

From the perspective of the user, the Cloud should empower us. IDaaS does the opposite.

Simple question with a surprisingly complex answer: who owns your identity? Our first instinct is to insist that we each own our own identities. After all, we are our identities, right?

Not so fast. There are myriad players who own a piece of your identity, from the credit bureaus to your bank to Facebook to your doctor to your employer. Every single one has some kind of identity management system that keeps track of information about you. In fact, this personally identifiable information (PII) is so powerful that when someone steals it, we call that crime identity theft - as though stealing your PII was the equivalent of stealing your very soul.

The reason PII has such power, of course, is because we give it power. Knowing a username and password gives you the power to access a system. Knowing your Social Security Number and birth date may give you the power to get bank account information from a call center rep. Add a bit more knowledge and you have the power to apply for a loan or a job or a security clearance. The old adage states that knowledge is power, but information only has power if we choose to empower it.

From the perspective of IT, managing user identities has long been in our wheelhouse. The Identity and Access Management (IAM) market matured years ago, and all enterprises have a broad set of robust IAM alternatives to choose from. But hey, it's almost 2013, right? Why buy some IAM product I have to install and maintain. Why don't I just get it in the Cloud?

The Problem with Identity-as-a-Service
No brainer, right? Sign up for Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS), or perhaps call it Identity Management as a Service (IDMaaS) or IAM as a Service (IAMaaS) - the marketplace still hasn't settled on the term - and you can throw away your Active Directory or LDAP. If all your users want to do is access the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings you provide, then placing your user directory in the Cloud is an obvious choice. Even when you want to control access to on-premise applications, IDaaS might make sense. After all, your current IAM solution connects to the apps in question over the network as it is. What does it matter whether IAM is running in the Cloud or not? Just put your user directory in the Cloud, configure it to control access to all your apps, and call it a day.

The problem is, this "put all the users in a directory" approach to IAM is increasingly inadequate to cover the kinds of identity management scenarios that we're facing in our maddeningly complex, interconnected world. But this story isn't new, either; after all, federated identity standards and technologies have been around for a decade or more. With federated identity, two separate security domains (that is, different departments or organizations with their own IAM systems) can exchange identity information with each other securely. Think of one of the travel aggregators, like Orbitz or Travelocity. Log into the aggregator Web site and you can purchase tickets and hotel rooms and the like, without ever contacting the airline or hotel directly. Behind the scenes the aggregator and the service provider are exchanging secure tokens that contain a bit of your identity, along with the appropriate instructions.

Federated identity is an essential enabler of Cloud security as well, particularly when the enterprise isn't comfortable moving their IAM to the Cloud. In fact, federating on-premise identity to the Cloud is a central technique we discuss in our Cloud Computing for Architects course. But it's not the same as IDaaS, where an organization actually moves its user directory to the Cloud. And federated identity breaks down when there are too many participants in a complex interaction, like the types of interactions that are becoming increasingly common in the Cloud.

So far so good: IDaaS isn't right for every organization today, but it could easily belong somewhere on your Cloud roadmap. But even when you reach a level of maturity where you're comfortable moving your IAM to the Cloud, IDaaS still falls short, because it doesn't take into account how we as individuals would like to think about our identities. From the perspective of the user, IDaaS moves the control over our own identities even further away from the user - and that's not the way we consumers view the Cloud. From the perspective of the user, the Cloud should empower us. IDaaS does the opposite.

Identity as a Cloud Resource
The reason so many vendors fell into this trap with IDaaS is essentially the horseless carriage problem: we have IAM, we want to move to the Cloud, so let's put IAM in the Cloud - instead of rethinking the problem from the perspective of what the Cloud actually means. So, let's think about this problem in an entirely different way. Instead of beginning with the user directory at the heart of every IAM offering, let's begin with the user identity itself.

Essentially, we'd like to have some kind of avatar: a digital representation of our identity that the user controls for themselves. In other words, something like a digital wallet or key ring that manages PII on behalf of the user. Such technologies have been around for a few decades, of course; in fact, the whole idea of a digital wallet dates from the dot.com era in the 1990s. But such technologies didn't take off, for two reasons. First, big companies didn't like the idea of giving their customers control of their own identities. Second, we didn't have the Cloud.

Let's put off the discussion of control for a moment, because putting the Cloud piece into the puzzle will help us deal with the control issue. We need to consider the Cloud, however, because it changes everything. What the Cloud brings to the table is not just the ability to treat identity management as a service. It also enables us to treat identities themselves as Cloud resources.

As we discussed in an earlier ZapFlash, there are many different types of Cloud resources, including servers, storage, networks, queues, etc. Furthermore, the list isn't fixed. As Cloud Computing matures, we expect and encourage new types of resources. What makes them Cloud resources is that the user is able to dynamically provision and deprovision them with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

So, let's take the notion of a user identity - or to be more precise, the user's avatar - and consider it to be a Cloud resource. The user, that is, we can provision such avatars as we see fit. And because they're in the Cloud, they're location independent. Facebook could use our avatar. Assign it privileges or other properties. Or our bank. Or our employer. But we control it.

Furthermore, we can choose how we control our Avatar. We may wish to log into its Web interface, but that's only one option. We could also use a hardware device like a flash drive or a USB dongle. We could add biometrics to the device, say via a fingerprint reader. Or we could install software on our computers that would enable us to control the avatar.

Treating identities as Cloud resources can also provide privacy boundaries. For example, I might instruct my avatar to provide my Social Security Number to my bank and the IRS, but not to Facebook. And of course, one of the primary benefits of this approach is that I can maintain my personal information in a single place. If I move, I notify my avatar, and everyone I've authorized to see my address automatically gets the update.

The ZapThink Take
In fact, treating identity as a provisionable Cloud resource - an avatar in the Cloud - makes so much sense that you might wonder why nobody has already made a billion dollars on this idea. The answer, of course, is control. Remember all the hullabaloo when Microsoft tried to position Passport as a general purpose identity store? Customers rebelled and Microsoft ended up in court - several times, in fact. Fundamentally, nobody wanted Microsoft to be in control of our identities.

Today we're going through a similar situation with Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Why bother creating yet another login with yet another password to forget, when we can simply log into that new site with our Facebook ID? Yes, we all go along, until we eventually realize we really don't want to give Facebook so much control over our online identity.

The Cloud, at least in theory, shifts this control to the user. The user should be responsible for provisioning Cloud resources. Yes, there needs to be software behind the scenes that makes provisionable avatars work and keeps them secure, but if they are truly Cloud resources, the Cloud service providers won't control them. Their customers will.

Image source: Sundaram Ramaswamy

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@ThingsExpo Stories
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
It’s 2016: buildings are smart, connected and the IoT is fundamentally altering how control and operating systems work and speak to each other. Platforms across the enterprise are networked via inexpensive sensors to collect massive amounts of data for analytics, information management, and insights that can be used to continuously improve operations. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Chemel, Co-Founder and CTO of Digital Lumens, will explore: The benefits sensor-networked systems bring to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
Large scale deployments present unique planning challenges, system commissioning hurdles between IT and OT and demand careful system hand-off orchestration. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Smith, Senior Director and a founding member of Incenergy, will discuss some of the key tactics to ensure delivery success based on his experience of the last two years deploying Industrial IoT systems across four continents.
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device.
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, explained how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
In today's uber-connected, consumer-centric, cloud-enabled, insights-driven, multi-device, global world, the focus of solutions has shifted from the product that is sold to the person who is buying the product or service. Enterprises have rebranded their business around the consumers of their products. The buyer is the person and the focus is not on the offering. The person is connected through multiple devices, wearables, at home, on the road, and in multiple locations, sometimes simultaneously...
“delaPlex Software provides software outsourcing services. We have a hybrid model where we have onshore developers and project managers that we can place anywhere in the U.S. or in Europe,” explained Manish Sachdeva, CEO at delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.