At last week's Catalyst conference in San Diego, I had a chance to sit down with identity management executives from IBM and CA to discuss the state of federated identity management. It appears while the federation of identities hasn't taken off as expected, there is still life in the technology.In case you're not aware, in identity management lingo, "federation" is the sharing of identity information (application access rights, etc.) across departmental, administrative, and even organizational domains. Essentially, under federated identity management an organization makes it possible for the employees of suppliers, contractors, business partners, or any external business to manage the identities of their employees for access.
This makes perfect sense from a business perspective, and a handful of years ago I'd fully expected federated identity management deployments to be commonplace among large corporations. But it hasn't turned out that way. My colleague Charles Babcock dove into the challenges of GM and Boeing when it came to managing global identity management.
The assumption everyone took earlier this decade, when it came to federated identity management, was that the projects would be primarily driven by Web-based single sign-on initiatives. Turns out, that wasn't so, either.
At the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference last week, I first sat down to talk with CA's Bilhar Mann, who played an instrumental role in CA's acquisition of Netegrity in 2004. Netegrity was of the first Web SSO independent vendors, along with Oblix, which was acquired by Oracle, and its technology is the underpinning of CA SiteMinder Web Access Manager.
While there has been some external Web SSO federation projects, Mann explained, many customers want federation within their corporate domain, for things such as their SOA implementations and applications that reside on the intranet. As it turns out, Web SSO and federation aren't as tightly coupled as the industry once thought they would be.
With that goal in mind, CA has kick-started a beta program for an app it calls CA Federation Manager, which Mann said will help customers get into federated identity management with, or without, a Web access management system such as CA SiteMinder. According to Mann, CA Federation Manager will be standards-based and by enabling an organization to act as the identity provider -- the side of the federated partnership that provides user authentication and asserts the validity of the identity, or as a service provider -- the side of the partnership that provides the target applications or services.
I also met with Joe Anthony, program director identity and compliance management, and Venkat Raghavan, director, information storage and security market at IBM Tivoli Software.
Tivoli Federated Identity Manager (FIM) software just became available on June 20. FIM supports many new capabilities that should help bolster federated identity initiatives, whether focused in-house or across corporate domains. FIM supports security for SOAs and extends interoperability to open source and other identity management standards and frameworks. Perhaps most important, at least when it comes to helping spur demand for cross-domain federation, is the fact that FIM will work with non-IBM Web access management software. That means, it shouldn't require much in the way of additional work for a company using Tivoli Access Manager to federate identity management with a company running CA SiteMinder or Oracle's Web Access Manager.
Are these vendor moves enough to help spur federated Web SSO among companies? Only time will tell. I thought we'd already be there by now. But IDC is predicting some significant movement in the two years ahead. According to that research firm, global revenue for federated identity and access management software should more than double from last year's $340 million to $702 million by 2010.