Thursday, July 17, 2008

To Virtual Directory or not To Virtual Directory, that is the question.

James McGovern was kind enough to cue me into this posting from Jackson Shaw. Jackson certainly knows his way around the Metadirectory space and is one of the smarter people I've encountered in the IdM space.

I'm a big fan of Virtual Directories from my days at MaXware and I absolutely believe that under the correct circumstances, they are a tool without equal for real time data consolidation and search, particularly when there are multiple data formats involved.

Which brings me to my point... Jackson states:

"Yes, absolutely. I think the industry will move away from a technology solution to a product solution over time. Given the "buzz" about this I am sure we will see this happen in the near-term. I certainly do not want to sell a virtual directory "product" but I do see how adding that capability to various Quest products would solve some very interesting business problems that our customers have."

I'm not sure what we'd want to move away from here. I've noticed over the years that most of the big players in IdM have had something very close to a Virtual Directory or something with lite Virtual Directory functionality and these companies have recently gone out of their way to go full steam ahead (SUN, Oracle) with this functionality. I seem to recall looking at some of the high level architectures for Access Management products and saying to myself, "gee this look like a Virtual Directory..." Given this I've also seen examples in my time where adding a Virtual Directory to an established product has solved problems of look-up, authentication and access, so I wonder why this would not be a good tool.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, Virtual Directories, Metadirectories and even Identity Stores are merely tools. I don't think that anyone should say a tool is not fit for the job until requirements have been gathered and a competent architect had started the design process. Even then, good arguments can be made for all schools of thought. At MaXware, we commonly took turns coming up with pro and con Metadirectory and Virtual Directory arguments for all of our customers so that we could be ready for anything. These discussions always benefited our engineers and even the sales team as we looked at solutions to customer's problems.

One of the great things about this field is that there are so many great tools and people using them that there's never an end to the discussion, which I'm sure we'll have again, and again, and again and...
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