Monday, September 07, 2009

OPX: Almost, but not quite, what we need to get the Enterprise on the cloud?

A post today by Dana Gardner - Cloud adoption needs a support spectrum of technology, services, best practices - got me thinking again about the importance of a universal "business" identity to make cloud computing a reality for the enterprise sector.

I wrote some time ago about OpenID - the missing spice in Enterprise 2.0? The basic premise being that for Enterprises to truely exploit the exploding cloud offerings, they first need a way of exporting business identities to the web.

While most businesses at the moment have not officially adopted cloud services, the reality is that cloud services are already penetrating all organisations - whether it is sales people keeping touch with contacts on twitter, pre-sales engineers collaborating via google docs, or consultants using drop.io to get around email size restrictions when sending documents to partners and customers.

The issue I wrote about in my previous post is that we need to wake up and recognise that the flood gates are already open: we are mixing personal and business identities in a tangled mess that is becoming harder to unravel each day.

The risk for business? While free cloud services are giving a tactical boost, when employees move on, they will take all of their cloud-attached contributions with them. At best, a relationship management issue to recover, at worst you find all kinds of SOX and compliance issues lurking to bite back.

Now pretty much all IT-enabled organisations have a form of internal directory and authentication service (be it AD or an LDAP variant). My premise is that organisation do want to be able to exploit google apps, Zoho or Salesforce, but when doing so, we should care deeply that employees apply their business (not personal) identity to any transaction.

From a technologist's point of view, this essentially means that we want to take our internal authentication processes and expose them in a very controlled way on the web. SAML was the deathstar standards approach, but I think in reality OpenID has won the hearts and minds at this point.

One of my projects-on-the-drawingboard is an OpenID provider designed for the Enterprise - a drop in module that allows you to export internal identities from AD or LDAP in a very controlled and auditable way. It is still on the drawing board and has been for ages - if others are interested in making it reality, drop me a line.

However, I think the options may already be available. I am talking about janrain's OPX, although I'm not sure that any of their offerings are really designed for this specific scenario. Even the OPX:Groups offering, which seems to be the closest seems to require establishing a new directory of identities rather than leverging your existing assets. I may be wrong... still investigating and certainly appreciate a steer in the right direction.

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