Why does identity data need its own special bus?

* The Identity Bus discussion continues

In the last two issues I talked about the "Identity Bus" and the discussion that Kuppinger-Cole's Felix Gaehtgens led at the recent European Identity Conference. Now, in response to popular demand (Felix's boss wanted to see what he was up to), the entire interview (in five parts) has been posted online - complete and unedited, a raw look at some familiar talking heads in an informal environment. It runs almost 40 minutes, so get some coffee and give it a look. I'll be talking more about some of these same characters after this week's Internet Identity Workshop.

The videos are on YouTube and are destined to become identity classics.

I also heard from old friend, Vikas Mahajan (We once almost wrote a book together, now he’s doing identity management for the AARP), with a question that I’m sure many folks have in this “Identity Bus” discussion:

“Why can't identity data go on top of a Java Message Queue/Service Bus and work with products like Sun Java Composite Application Platform Suite (formerly Seebeyond) or IBM Websphere MQ? What's so special about identity data that we have to create some new special bus just for this data? Companies have spent plenty of money on these ESB/SOA infrastructures, so why not tap into those to help us move identity data around?”

In a nutshell, that’s the problem I have with the term “Identity Bus.” It isn’t the transport that’s the problem, but the transformation. As an analogy, think of moving between an airport and a city-center hotel. In many places, there’s a high speed rail-link (London, Paris) or a subway/underground link (Washington, San Francisco) that could be called the “visitor bus” – just put the visitor on the bus and he/she is delivered to the proper destination. Then there’s San Jose – my local airport.

There is no rail-based link from the airport to anywhere. Surprisingly, though, I can use a rail-link to get from the San Francisco airport (SFO) to a downtown San Jose hotel. Go to the BART station at the airport, go one stop to Millbrae and get off. Walk across the terminal to the Caltrain (commuter railroad) stop and board it southbound. Get off in Mountain View and walk across the terminal to the VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transportation system) and get on the light rail. Eventually, this will allow you to get off in downtown San Jose. But there is no easy way to schlep your luggage and you need to buy a new ticket at each station when you transfer. In other words, the transport is there, but the transformation is difficult.

We can put identity tokens, of any type, on most message busses. But moving the “baggage” is difficult and negotiating the payments is a pain. There must be a better way!

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