Identity Management in the Brave New World of Social, Mobile and the Cloud

November 7, 2014
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2 min read

The modern identity management ecosystem now squarely encompasses devices such as tablets, smartphones and traditional PCs, which are growing in number and are owned by employees. This means the perimeter of the corporate network must be expanded to allow simple and easy access to corporate Web applications from the extranet, and the definition of assets that must be managed by the identity and access management (IAM) system must be extended to endpoint devices.

Gone are the days of 9-5 work hours, accessing applications and data from a single workstation or even physically showing up for work every day, for that matter. Today’s modern workforce is mobile. Employees are globally telecommuting, accessing Web-based applications from myriad corporate and noncorporate devices and working more elastic hours. As such, companies can no longer count on old standby controls and expect users to be on a corporate network or company-issued PC.

IAM has been a cornerstone of information technology (IT) security for quite some time, determining relationships between people and assets, along with the policies and processes that govern them. However, as organizations evolve and become more mobile, social and dependent upon the cloud, identity management is evolving. To keep pace and remain agile, organizations must evolve their acquisition, adoption and use of the cloud.

So what are the implications for IAM in this new digital reality?

A Social World

Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ have changed the face of identity management — perhaps unintentionally. The fact is, these networks now have billions of users, and that pervasiveness has become infectious not just at home, but also within the enterprise.

However, there is more to the social network story than establishing a corporate Facebook page and posting company announcements to Twitter. In a twist not commonly seen in IT, security is actually becoming a tool for marketing. That’s right — it’s not a typo. Marketing types have come to recognize that there is great value in integrating social networks with their company’s IAM platform.

Providing prospects with a simple, familiar way to start a relationship with your company leads to a path of least resistance, especially compared to competitors who may ask website visitors to walk through a time-consuming registration process, forcing the weary prospect to manage yet another ID and password.

Impact of the Cloud and Identity Management

The cloud has been a major disruptive technology in the past five years and is slated to continue on that upward trajectory. Whether it is moving applications to infrastructure-as-a-service or taking advantage of platform-as-a-service services for mobile and Web development back ends, there are few organizations that have evolved their IAM strategy quickly enough to keep pace.

Fortunately, there is a solution: IAM-as-a-service. With the evolving ecosystem of identities and assets from mobile, social and the cloud, the way IAM plugs into that picture is evolving, too. Organizations are increasingly acquiring their IAM technologies as cloud-based services. This frees up organizations and allows them to focus on how to exploit the technology, using it to expand their horizons into areas such as mobile computing, social integration and the cloud rather than worrying about plumbing and infrastructure.

Determining an IAM strategy will have lasting effects on organizations’ success or failure in these new frontiers. Of significant importance will be the ability of the organization to reimagine its perceptions of IAM as a tool for internal controls, instead considering it a tool that will enable agility, competitiveness and market advantage in an environment that is increasingly dependent on success in enabling mobility, reaching clients in new and pervasive social domains and leveraging cloud platforms, infrastructure and software.

Eric Maass
Director, Identity and Access Management Strategy

As Director of IAM Strategy within IBM's Global Technology Services, Eric is responsible for strategic direction and product management of the organization's...
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