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Microservices Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson, Carmen Gonzalez

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@ThingsExpo: Article

'Internet Of Things' and Identity

As the Internet of Things continues its march to the mainstream, organizations have more opportunities to expand relationships

Over the past few years, enterprises have been moving to the cloud to streamline processes and operations. A study last year by TheInfoPro indicated that there is no sign of cloud investment slowing down - predicting an average growth rate of cloud spending of 36 percent from this year until 2016. As the Internet of Things continues its march to the mainstream, organizations have more opportunities to expand relationships with customers and partners by building and offering new services. These services have the potential to exponentially drive revenue and create business value.

The question is, what do CIOs need to do to make sure that their companies can take advantage of this potential? The first step is to look at their existing technical infrastructure to ensure that it can truly enable companies to drive change. One crucial component: security, including identity and access management.

IRM and the Cloud: The Move Toward Supporting a Dynamic Environment
Traditionally, identity and access management (IAM) was used to defend a company from security breaches and protect data by providing the right level of access to the right people, who were typically employees of the company. But in a cloud-based world, where organizations need to break down the walls to increase their interaction with customers and partners, a traditional IAM solution just doesn't work - it won't be able to cope with the varying devices and environments at Internet scale.

Looking at all the differences between what is needed now and what traditional identity management offers, I think that "identity relationship management" (IRM) is the best way to describe the new lightweight and agile solution that companies will adopt. A term coined by Kantara Initiative in October 2013, I think it is a perfect way to describe the changes that are needed - moving from managing access and identities to managing relationships.

In a cloud-based world, organizations need to ensure that their IAM system - a critical security component - is able to handle dynamic requests. What do CIOs and CSOs need to look for in an IRM solution to drive revenue through the cloud, while still ensuring a secure experience? Here are some ideas:

  1. Scalability: In a world running on the cloud and the Internet, scalability is a key factor - it's no longer about managing employees who access information from their desks. Customers, partners and employees are accessing information from devices across a variety of locations and the number of users grows exponentially over time, so identity systems need to manage millions of identities instantaneously.
  2. Intelligent and adaptable: Now that everyone has a mobile device, they expect access to information across different environments and geographies. But, that doesn't mean that IT needs to compromise on security. That's why identity and access systems need to be flexible, so that if a user tries to access a secure portal from a new device or location, it will allow access, granted they have the proper credentials.
  3. Modular structure: Modern identity demands are at an entirely new level of complexity that an old, traditional system is not able to handle. Systems need to respond quickly to a plethora of varying factors - devices, circumstances, and access privileges - to ensure that systems continue to run seamlessly. Now that companies are opening up access to partners and customers, user experience becomes that much more complex and critical, and traditional IAM struggles to respond to these varying factors.
  4. Borderless: Not long ago, information was stored on premises and that's where employees accessed it from - their desktop from the network in their office. Now that companies have adopted new technologies like cloud and SaaS, information is likely stored across all three environments, but users still expect the same fast and easy access. A good IRM solution is borderless so that stakeholders have the flexibility to securely and seamlessly access information stored in any environment from anywhere.

Making the Transition Easy
There are also some detailed technical features that organizations can keep in mind when choosing an IRM solution. These include emerging standards like OpenID Connect and OAuth 2.0, which enable cloud and mobile-ready features like device agnostic single-sign on (SSO) across environments. A system that uses REST APIs also makes it more developer friendly, and is a lightweight and flexible alternative to traditional SOAP-based Web services.

When considering implementation, it is essential to ensure the deployment is as quick and easy as possible. Oftentimes, organizations are using different IAM systems across their company, making management difficult. Deploying a central IRM solution gives users the ability to quickly create and deploy new revenue-generating services.  Additionally, the IT team is able to manage and scale the system much easier from one centralized location.

IAM has always been seen as a necessity for employees and company systems, and therefore a business cost, but with the cloud, organizations are in the unique position to adjust their focus from simple identity and access management to leveraging the value of unique relationships to drive business' top-line revenue.

More Stories By John Barco

John Barco is currently vice president of product management at ForgeRock. He has more than 20 years of experience building innovative products for enterprise customers with focus on identity and access management for the last 12 years. Prior to joining ForgeRock, he served as senior director of product management for the Identity Management group at Sun Microsystems. John has also held leadership positions at iPlanet, Silicon Graphics, NComputing, and IronKey. He holds a degree in industrial engineering from Missouri State University.

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