Today, we'll talk about a new buzzword: identity management, the new name for "directory servers.
I like the way Dylan Tweney explains the concept.
First, let's get the terminology out of the way. "Directory servers" are essentially glorified company phone books that list employees, departments, business partners with authorized access to your network, or customers with accounts on your corporate website. A directory server is like the person standing in front of a trendy nightclub with a clipboard, waving the VIPs in and telling everyone else to stay behind the velvet rope. (The firewall -- and related security technology -- is like the bouncer who makes sure no one crashes the party after having been turned away.)
Now that the concept is clear, why is it important?
Identity-management systems are gradually gaining the ability to talk with one another through the infrastructure provided by competing Microsoft's Passport and the competing Liberty Alliance project -- a coalition of corporations, led by Sun, that released its first identity-management specification last week at the Burton Group's Catalyst conference in San Francisco. Passport and Liberty simplify Web commerce by enabling companies to exchange information about their customers' identities.
If you're starting to get a little nervous about consumer privacy, you should be. Microsoft says Passport will allow companies to share information about customers only if those customers have previously authorized it, and Liberty doesn't yet support the exchange of consumer data other than individuals' names and whether they have been authenticated. But there's no doubt that such technologies will eventually make it easier for companies to share detailed customer data.
"You have zero privacy anyway," Scott McNealy -- CEO of Sun Microsystems -- said about two years ago. I guess he was right.
Source: Dylan Tweney, Business 2.0, July 26, 2002