Taking the Plunge - or Dipping Your Toe - into the Fluffy IAM Cloud by Paul Dhanjal (Simeio Solutions)

In our last three posts, we’ve examined the revolution that’s occurring today in identity and access management (IAM). We looked at the business drivers behind the growth of cloud-based IAM, the shortcomings of the old, last-century IAM models, and the new opportunities that federation, identity hubs and other new cloud capabilities can provide by changing the way you interact with everyone who does business with you.

In this, our final post in the series, we’ll cover the key things you, the enterprise architect, should keep in mind when considering moving IAM to the cloud.

Invariably, what starts the consideration process is a burning business need: a compliance requirement, security vulnerability or belt-tightening edict. Many on the business side view IAM as the “silver bullet” – and for good reason. You can almost always devise a solution using some aspect of IAM.

The most critical question to ask first when using IAM to address the business need is, simply: is my solution complete? Typically, “business” is not focused on the big picture. Understandably, they’re focused instead on the need at hand: Can we be HIPAA compliant in 6 months? Can we tighten our new hire, employee transfer and termination processes? What can we do to prevent another password breach? Can we reduce our service center costs by the end of next quarter?

The business may not be focused on the complete set of services offered by IAM but rather a single aspect or two. But it is the job – indeed the duty – of the enterprise architect to ensure that all aspects are being met. It’s like remodeling a house but failing to consider the impact on the foundation, the furnace or the zoning or setback requirements. While the homeowners may not be thinking of such things, the architect, of course, must.

At Simeio Solutions, the way we ensure that all aspects are being taken into account – to expose any gaps or weaknesses – is to assess our client’s IAM capabilities against a five-step maturity model ranging from “ad hoc” to “optimized.” The model we use is similar to Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. It’s based upon some simple criteria, which can provide a visual representation of how well our clients fair when evaluated against four core categories:

·         Program Governance

·         Access Management (e.g., Single Sign-On)

·         Identity and Access Governance (e.g., Identity Intelligence)

·         Enterprise Security (e.g., DLP and SIEM)

Often our clients believe they have a solution with all the bases covered, but the model exposes the gaps or weaknesses. The gaps are ideal opportunities for the cloud to enter into the conversation.

The complete process is straightforward:

1.    Look at the big picture, not just the immediate need – what is our roadmap and how does this solution fit?

2.    Determine where you stand with respect to the four core areas – what are the gaps?

3.    Decide how to cover the gaps – what role can the cloud play?

Returning to our home remodeling analogy, at some point, if gaps or weaknesses are discovered when evaluating the complete impact of the proposed remodel – if the existing foundation wouldn’t support the new addition, for example – the owners need to decide if it’s time to move to a new house instead of trying to remodel the old one.

However, with IAM it’s not an either-or proposition – i.e., either move to the cloud or fix the existing infrastructure. It’s possible to use new cloud technologies just to cover the gaps.

Many of our clients start their migration to the cloud this way, dipping in their toe instead of taking the plunge all at once. Because our cloud services offering is based on the Oracle Identity and Access Management Suite, we can offer a tremendous amount of flexibility in this regard. The Oracle platform is not a collection of point solutions, but rather a complete, integrated, best-of-breed suite. Yet it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can choose just the features and capabilities you need using a pay-as-you-go model, incrementally turning on and off services as needed. Better still, all the other capabilities are there, at the ready, whenever you need them.

Spooling up these cloud-only services takes just a fraction of the time it would take a typical organization to deploy internally. SLAs in the cloud may be higher than on premise, too. And by using a suite of software that’s complete and integrated, you can dramatically lower cost and complexity.

If your in-house solution cannot be migrated to the cloud, you might consider using hardware appliances such as Simeio’s Cloud Interceptor to extend your enterprise out into the network. You might also consider using Expert Managed Services. Cost is usually the key factor – not just development costs but also operational sustainment costs. Talent or resourcing issues often come into play when thinking about sustaining a program. Expert Managed Services such as those we offer at Simeio can address those concerns head on.

In a cloud offering, identity and access services lend to the new paradigms described in my previous posts. Most importantly, it allows us all to focus on what we're meant to do – provide value, lower costs and increase security to our respective organizations. It’s that magic “silver bullet” that business knew you had all along.

If you’d like to talk more, you can find us at simeiosolutions.com.

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Oracle Identity Management is a complete and integrated next-generation identity management platform that provides breakthrough scalability; enables organizations to achieve rapid compliance with regulatory mandates; secures sensitive applications and data regardless of whether they are hosted on-premise or in a cloud; and reduces operational costs. Oracle Identity Management enables secure user access to resources anytime on any device.

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