Tuesday, May 08, 2012

There's nothing new under the sun

I first mentioned the Cloud Computing concept back on Oct. 23rd 2000! (http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/dir/2000/1023dir1.html): “ERoom Technologies this week will unveil tighter directory integration for its Web-based application that provides companies with online workspaces for sharing documents and organizing projects.”

Something else I talked about back then is also relevant to the age of Cloud-based services, and it's a phrase that is equally applicable to identity services and their use by programmers -
“To be useful, the directory[or, today, the Identity Service] must be pervasive and ubiquitous.” Some people think the two words are synonymous, but there is a difference.

By pervasive, I mean that its available anywhere and every time we want to use it. By ubiquitous, I mean its available everywhere and any time we want to use it. See the difference?

For a programmer to make use of a service (rather than create her own) she has to know that it will always be available (“every time” and “any time”) wherever (“anywhere” and “everywhere”) she needs it. If there are places or times that the data isn’t available, and the program needs it, then the programmer will build a separate structure that is available any time and every time, anywhere and everywhere.

That’s what lead to the success of Active Directory – even organizations using something else as their enterprise directory had some Windows servers so AD was always there – programmers could count on it. You couldn’t say that about Netscape’s directory or Novell’s.

As we move into the cloud-services era, it is imperative that identity services be readily available and easy to use for those creating the code to run the services. There’s no single service that can be relied on, though, so its going to take a feature-rich set of standard protocols to make it happen.

That discussion arose as almost an aside in a three part look at “Essential qualities of directory services,” qualities that are just as important today as they were in 2000: a well-designed directory service needs the ability to be distributed, replicated and partitioned. Twelve years ago, we were only looking at the needs of the enterprise but today the identity datastore (i.e., the directory) is going global so these attributes are needed more than ever. I’ll look into that more closely in another post.

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