Knowing your identity

With network security one of the prime worries of organizations, identity management applications are increasing in their importance among IT buyers.

This week Novell Inc. released the latest version of its Identity Manager for internal systems, increasing the number of solutions available from leading vendors such as BMC Software, CA, IBM and Sun Microsystems.

Last month two of the biggest names in the market made acquisitions to boost their offerings. Hewlett-Packard announced it intends to buy Trustgenix Inc., a maker of identity management applications allowing single-sign on to multiple Web sites, such as those of suppliers. The software will be added to HP’s OpenView identity management portfolio.

But the biggest move may have come from Oracle Corp., which bought Thor Technologies, a provisioning vendor, and OctetString, a virtual directory specialist.

According to a report by Jonathan Penn, an industry analyst with Forrester Research, Oracle has now taken a big position in this market.

Provisioning lets a company define employee roles and operational policies through software. As a result new hires or people who shift jobs within a company can more easily be given — or denied — access to certain network resources. It can also be tied to operations such as purchasing authority.

According to Penn, Oracle’s identity management offerings were at a disadvantage before the Thor acquisition. Now, he wrote, along with products that came with Oracle’s purchase in March of Oblix, it has assembled a better portfolio of J2EE-based products with a highly-flexible administrative model, role model, data model and connector architecture.

However, he added, Oracle is late to this market and is at least a year away from integrating the portfolio.

It also still has to differentiate the offerings. “Oracle’s big challenge will be to present a value proposition that sets it apart from leading identity management vendors,” Penn wrote.

On the other hand, he suggested the acquisitions could provide a bridge between Oracle E-Business Suite and its newly-acquired applications from Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft.

To succeed, Oracle can’t rely solely on its leadership role in the enterprise apps market, he said, or go after existing customers because many already buy these solutions from competitors. “Instead, Oracle must win over chief information security officers and security and application architects.”

These products aren’t aimed at small businesses. For example, Novell Identity Manager 3 is priced at US$75,000 for the base engine, or US$25 a user. Its provisioning module is an extra US$30,000, or US$10 a user. Integration modules, if needed, have to be purchased separately as well.

According to Ross Chevalier, Novell Canada’s chief technology officer, version 3 has a drag-and-drop framework called Designer so non-technical managers can more easily chart company infrastructures. They can even test “what if” scenarios before deployment.

Also new is automatic user provisioning, which makes it easier for employees to manage their own identities.

Identity Manager 3, which runs on Linux, Solaris, AIX and Windows, will be available Dec. 13.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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