Guest post: Charles Barratt, Principal Business Solutions Architect, EMEA EUC Strategic Accounts at VMware looks at some of the key challenges facing organisations as they look to implement a modern identity management solution
Picture this, my daily routine. I wake up, enter the kitchen to switch on the kettle and pick up my iPhone. I read the emails that have come in overnight and, although I don’t reply to them in great detail, I start to process them. Once the school run is complete, I pick up my iPad and use my commute time to start responding to those emails. I look over my management dashboards and access applications from a range of sources. Once at my place of work for the day I use my laptop and start to work in a more traditional way, using the keyboard and mouse. Finally, the day done, the smart sensors in my house detect that I am heading home, making sure that the heating is optimal and that the lights are on to welcome me back.
I’m sure the above all sounds very familiar. But think about all the different modes of operating I’ve moved through and it should give you some indication of the challenge that faces enterprise IT when thinking about identity. With just three devices I have used multiple ways to authenticate access – from fingerprinting to PIN and passwords. I’ve used multiple applications, crossed multiple security boundaries, operated in multiple geographies and created or updated multiple data sets. Most importantly, I expect access to be consumer simple, with just one identity, but data shared across all applications or devices, while being completely secure. Multiply that by several thousands of workers and you have an intriguing and exciting opportunity on your hands to make a significant change in user productivity.
Yet, even the term ‘identity’ has a number of distinct connotations depending on who you are talking to. For users, it would typically represent passwords, userID, and identity protection. For IT departments, it can refer to identity provisioning, password management, logins and the Joiners, Leavers and Movers process. Identity is a lot more than just credentials and user accounts, it is about seamlessly connecting users to their content based upon their context, leveraging a single set of credentials to provide single sign on across any number of application constructs that span multiple physical and logical boundaries.
Ultimately, it’s a significant challenge for businesses. Take, for example, the education sector: for a higher education institution with approximately 10,000 students starting and leaving each year – which represents just a quarter of the total number of users – it is a logistical nightmare. Each student comes armed with their own devices and expects to be able to consume services on them as well as on specific university machines. For the IT department, getting it right can make a real difference in improving the student journey, but it’s far from an easy task and requires significant analysis to ensure services are fit for user needs and, at the same, secure enough to withstand cyber-attacks.
Historically, identity was focused on attempting – with varying degrees of success – to secure control and ensure compliance requirements. Solutions were often disparate technologies, loosely integrated and poorly adopted. As you might expect, it all resulted in a high cost of ownership that returned little value.