Partner View

A Clear Opportunity for Partners

Identity management is gaining prominence as a way to authenticate users across multiple platforms.

Software infrastructure continues to be the No. 1 IT spending priority, likely to account for 25 percent of all IT-related sales for the rest of this year and beyond, according to a CNET Networks survey of IT executives. Meanwhile, concerns about compliance and security aren't going away.

Identity management is increasingly being considered as a software-infrastructure technology that can automate the provisioning of users, improve compliance and security and reduce complexity and cost. Businesses clearly need these capabilities:

  • Research by the Meta Group (now part of Gartner Inc.) indicates that the average user spends 16 minutes every day on authentication and sign-on tasks.
  • Meta Group research also indicates that fully 45 percent of help-desk calls are for users needing password resets. An automated password reset system would reduce call volume by one-third.

Traditionally, identity management has offered opportunity primarily to the largest integrators. The reasons: network scale and complexity. Today's networks are distributed, loosely coupled confederations of users, operating systems, platforms, applications, files and services. Obviously, it can be challenging and costly to deploy enterprise-wide identity management solutions across those networks without disrupting established business processes.

Doing the job as effectively as possible would involve using an identity system that provides a level of identity transparency analogous to what routers and browsers provide for location transparency. Identity transparency would capture the power of identity-centric service delivery over standard Internet protocols. It would use existing database, security and Web standards to provide a comprehensive identity-services solution.

In the absence of a unified identity service, global search capabilities have, so far, provided partial answers for provisioning distributed and loosely coupled users and resources with search technology. The next step to a unified identity and service-delivery platform is providing accountability between users and resources. Network operating systems, associated directory services and most business applications currently provide some level of authentication and authorization services -- but they don't yet offer true identity transparency.

So how do we create identity transparency? Proxy servers, available from many vendors, provide authentication transparency, allowing users to authenticate to a single source and gain access to multiple systems, applications and services. The bigger opportunity is in providing authorization transparency across those distributed networks. Existing directory synchronization and identity management products provide partial solutions, but they also increase complexity and can be costly to deploy and maintain. And while search services connect users and resources, they provide no accountability to those resources' owners. Ultimately, loosely coupling identity with a comprehensive identity services platform allows for a more universal approach to provisioning, synchronizing and managing users and resources.

The need for true identity transparency will generate a variety of opportunities for channel participants to deliver provisioning, service delivery, compliance, access control, content delivery and other solutions based on user and resource rights and privileges. In the same way that network operating systems, network attached storage and virtual servers have opened new doors for resellers, identity transparency will create new paths for them as well.

Identity has become one of the most important assets that individuals and organizations have. It's rapidly becoming the means by which users and resources will be authorized, provisioned and managed. Identity is evolving from a system-specific mechanism used for authenticating users into a platform capable of providing multiple automated and self-service applications across a variety of architectures.

For that reason, the identity-services market will soon stop being dominated by big integrators with the capital and resources to deploy complex solutions. As identity becomes more transparent, every reseller -- regardless of size -- will have the opportunity to play more fully in the identity world.

About the Author

David Doane ([email protected]) is president and CEO of PresenceID Inc., a Salt Lake City-based Registered Member specializing in identity-management platforms. For more information, visit