Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Bob Gourley, Pat Romanski

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
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and G...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, 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 opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, discussed key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the age ...
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...