Thursday, July 10, 2008

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Getting NISTy - UPDATE

Oracle's Nishant Kaushik has a great post today attacking the NIST RBAC standard as fatally flawed.

He asks the question, "Is the NIST RBAC standard fundamentally flawed, given that it is missing a key element in access control decisions - relationships...?" and answers himself: "It is, and companies looking to the NIST RBAC standard as the template for how to approach role management are going to end up missing the boat."

I'll simply say that I find NIST's RBAC to be about as useful as the ISO network model - a great tool to tailor a discussion around, but really worthless as a practical implementation. Alternatively, you could thing of it as being in the same relationship to actual role implementation as the Dept. of Defense's ADA programming language is to Java or C#.

There has to be a better way.

UPDATE: My sometime drinking buddy, Archie Reed from HP, has posted a good summary of the current thinking, planning and drafting of standards for role management and RBAC.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

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Killing the Metadirectory

Kim Cameron comments today about my column ("Is the metadirectory dead?") which was inspired by Kim's erstwhile colleague Jackson Shaw's blog entry ("You won't have me to kick around anymore!") which included the lines: "Let's be honest. The meta-directory is dead. Approaches that look like a meta-directory are dead."

My interpretation is that the metadirectory has finally given way to the virtual directory as the synchronization engine for identity data. Kim interprets it differently. He talks about the "Identity Bus" and says that "...you still need identity providers. Isnít that what directories do? You still need to transform and arbitrate claims, and distribute metadata. Isnít metadirectory the most advanced technology for that? " And I have to answer, "no." The metadirectory is last century's technology and it's day is past.

The Virtual Directory, the "Directory as a Service" is the model for today and tomorrow. Data that is fresh, always available and available anywhere is what we need. The behemoth metadirectory with it's huge datastore and intricate synchronization schedule (yet is never quite up to date) are just not the right model for the nimble, agile world of today's service driven computing. But the "bus" Kim mentions could be a good analogy here - the metadirectory is a lumbering, diesel-spewing bus. The virtual directory? It's a zippy little Prius...

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Friday, February 15, 2008

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Off Course-On Target

Wayne Hodgins blog is called "Off Course-On Target" and subtitled "Where unexpected paths lead to great discoveries." Today he took a look at digital identity and fretted over the lack of uniform standards. But it's the analogy and stories Wayne tells - especially about how the shape of screw threads could have lost World War II for the allies - that make it such fascinating reading.

And the moral - perhaps best stated as "the perfect is the enemy of the good" - is something the entire IdM community should take to heart. Consensus and compromise should be our watchwords.

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