Tuesday, July 1

Metadirectories Aren't Dead (They're Just Aging)

Nishant Kaushik updated his blog and one of his old posts showed up on PlanetIdentity reminding me of the recent discussions on metadirectories and virtual directories between him and others (Dave, Jackson, Kim).

Not that I want to pick a fight with any of these guys, but for anyone who thinks the metadirectory is dead, I have a simple (albeit a bit late) scenario for you.

There are three identity stores:
  • An HR app built on a black-boxed Oracle DB
  • A custom-built line of business app built on MySQL
  • Active Directory
  • The HR system needs to be authoritative for account creation and status.
  • Active Directory needs to feed email address to the other apps upon creation (and occasional changes).
  • Systems should be updated within 4 hours.
That's it. What do you think? Is a virtual directory the best solution to meet these needs?

I love virtual directory technology as much as the next guy (Hi Mark), but claiming that any technology is superior to another without a discussion of the specific requirements being met just doesn't seem to make sense. Companies, departments, and projects within departments have different needs.

I've said it before. They're just tools. So, when James McGovern asks what the role of virtual directory should be, I don't have an answer. There is no should in this discussion. Ian Yip had a similar pragmatic answer. And Nishant echoed with "the mantra should always be to choose the right tool that solves your problems". Exactly.

If the idea is simply to talk about what the future should look like, I think James hit on something. There has been a ground swell of apps that directly support Active Directory as the user store. So, maybe the next versions of the HR and LOB apps in the above scenario would attach directly to AD eliminating the need for any solution here. As prevalent as AD has become, that seems more likely than mass-consumption of virtual directory technologies. And it's probably what Jackson was alluding to (Quest enables *nix systems to leverage AD).

Another possibility is that apps will support SOA-based authentication and authorization, though that hasn't quite spread like wild fire quite yet.

Don't get me wrong – I don't think the need for virtual directory technologies will go away anytime soon, but I wouldn't be surprised if it never becomes a standard in the mid-market. And I don't think it'll ever completely replace metadirectory technologies.

Metadirectory may be aging, but hey, 50 is the new 30. It's not dead yet.

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