Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Aruna Ravichandran, Dalibor Siroky, Kevin Jackson, PagerDuty Blog

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).

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
For many of us laboring in the fields of digital transformation, 2017 was a year of high-intensity work and high-reward achievement. So we’re looking forward to a little breather over the end-of-year holiday season. But we’re going to have to get right back on the Continuous Delivery bullet train in 2018. Markets move too fast and customer expectations elevate too precipitously for businesses to rest on their laurels. Here’s a DevOps “to-do list” for 2018 that should be priorities for anyone w...
If testing environments are constantly unavailable and affected by outages, release timelines will be affected. You can use three metrics to measure stability events for specific environments and plan around events that will affect your critical path to release.
In a recent post, titled “10 Surprising Facts About Cloud Computing and What It Really Is”, Zac Johnson highlighted some interesting facts about cloud computing in the SMB marketplace: Cloud Computing is up to 40 times more cost-effective for an SMB, compared to running its own IT system. 94% of SMBs have experienced security benefits in the cloud that they didn’t have with their on-premises service
DevOps failure is a touchy subject with some, because DevOps is typically perceived as a way to avoid failure. As a result, when you fail in a DevOps practice, the situation can seem almost hopeless. However, just as a fail-fast business approach, or the “fail and adjust sooner” methodology of Agile often proves, DevOps failures are actually a step in the right direction. They’re the first step toward learning from failures and turning your DevOps practice into one that will lead you toward even...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
While walking around the office I happened upon a relatively new employee dragging emails from his inbox into folders. I asked why and was told, “I’m just answering emails and getting stuff off my desk.” An empty inbox may be emotionally satisfying to look at, but in practice, you should never do it. Here’s why. I recently wrote a piece arguing that from a mathematical perspective, Messy Desks Are Perfectly Optimized. While it validated the genius of my friends with messy desks, it also gener...
The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Microservices being modular these are faster to change and enables an evolutionary architecture where systems can change, as the business needs change. Microservices can scale elastically and by being service oriented can enable APIs natively. Microservices also reduce implementation and release cycle time and enables continuous delivery. This paper provides a logical overview of the Mi...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...
Some people are directors, managers, and administrators. Others are disrupters. Eddie Webb (@edwardawebb) is an IT Disrupter for Software Development Platforms at Liberty Mutual and was a presenter at the 2016 All Day DevOps conference. His talk, Organically DevOps: Building Quality and Security into the Software Supply Chain at Liberty Mutual, looked at Liberty Mutual's transformation to Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and DevOps. For a large, heavily regulated industry, this task ...
Following a tradition dating back to 2002 at ZapThink and continuing at Intellyx since 2014, it’s time for Intellyx’s annual predictions for the coming year. If you’re a long-time fan, you know we have a twist to the typical annual prediction post: we actually critique our predictions from the previous year. To make things even more interesting, Charlie and I switch off, judging the other’s predictions. And now that he’s been with Intellyx for more than a year, this Cortex represents my first ...
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Toyota Production System, a world-renowned production system is based on the "complete elimination of all waste". The "Toyota Way", grounded on continuous improvement dates to the 1860s. The methodology is widely proven to be successful yet there are still industries within and tangential to manufacturing struggling to adopt its core principles: Jidoka: a process should stop when an issue is identified prevents releasing defective products
We seem to run this cycle with every new technology that comes along. A good idea with practical applications is born, then both marketers and over-excited users start to declare it is the solution for all or our problems. Compliments of Gartner, we know it generally as “The Hype Cycle”, but each iteration is a little different. 2018’s flavor will be serverless computing, and by 2018, I mean starting now, but going most of next year, you’ll be sick of it. We are already seeing people write such...
Defining the term ‘monitoring’ is a difficult task considering the performance space has evolved significantly over the years. Lately, there has been a shift in the monitoring world, sparking a healthy debate regarding the definition and purpose of monitoring, through which a new term has emerged: observability. Some of that debate can be found in blogs by Charity Majors and Cindy Sridharan.
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.