Tuesday, March 25, 2008

with Kim Cameron as Humpty Dumpty...

One of my favorite passages from Lewis Carroll is the dialog in "Through the Looking Glass" between Alice and Humpty Dumpty:

"There's glory for you!"
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is, " said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty. "which is to be master—that's all."

Kim responded to yesterday's post in the "metadirectory" discussion with a Humpty Dumpty answer. He starts off with a Cameronesque peace offering ("It seems like some of our disagreement is a matter of terminology.") He then goes on to re-define "metadirectory" so that it becomes the answer to his question:

"Let’s make it clear that I see metadirectory as an evolving thing.

* First generation metadirectory dealt exclusively with a managing applications that had been conceived without reference to each other - or to any common framework (In truth, this is still an issue - see Jeff Bohren’s recent posting called “Which is better, Phillips or Flat-head?“).

* Second generation metadirectory has an additional focus: providing the framework by which next-generation applications can become part of the distributed data infrastructure. This includes publishing and subscription. But that isn’t enough. Other applications need ways to find it, name it, and so on. "
First to Jeff's posting. It's lovely. But it doesn't address the question. The application developer only cares about knowing how to access the data that the application needs. What form or format it's stored in doesn't make any difference. If the application developer only has SQL as the means of accessing data, then this puts the developer in the role of someone with a Phillips-head screwdriver trying to remove flathead screws, not the identity architect who provides multitudes of access protocols and methods for the identity data.

Kim talks about a "second generation" metadirectory. Metadirectory 2.0 if you will. First time I've heard about it. First time anyone has heard about it, for that matter. There is no such animal. Every metadirectory on the market meets the definition which Kim provides as "first generation". It's time to move on away from the huge silo that sucks up data, disk space, RAM and bandwidth and move on to a more lithe, agile, ubiquitous and pervasive identity layer. Organized as an identity hub which sees all of the authoritative sources and delivers, via the developer's chosen protocol, the data the application needs when and where it's needed.

I think, I hope, that Kim will agree with me that this ID layer (the "ID bus") instituted as a hub (or transformation device) is what we need to go forward. I'm not wedded to calling it the Virtual Directory, but I'm certainly not going to call it the metadirectory, either.

Michel Prompt (who Kim quotes extensively) calls it the "context server." I can certainly live with that.


'An Identity Layer', how about 'A customer layer'. Having worked for mobile network operators defining and shaping IAM strategy and capabilities for the last 5 years, I have found that talking about Identity as a 'layer' helps enormously explaining to techies and commercial folk alike what this is all about, and why it's important. In MNO environments this works because everyone's used to the concept of layers, radio, telecom, IS, BSS / OSS..

This also helps to differentiate between CRM or CPM databases and Identity. There is one downside I have found, if it's a layer, and its distributed, no one wants to 'own' it because they can't control it. For this reason, a great big fat silo is sometimes the only way of moving forward.
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