Longhorn, Active Directory and Kermit the Frog

* Musings from NetPro’s Directory Experts Conference

Last week was NetPro’s annual Directory Experts Conference (DEC), an event that anyone connected with Microsoft identity, networking and directory technologies should attend. Over the years I’ve seen the attendance grow from dozens to the over 800 folks who attended this time. Particularly noteworthy are the number of Microsoft employees who go, not to make presentations or do marketing, but to get a better understanding of their own company’s technologies.

This year’s event was kicked off with two and a half days of workshops put together by NetPro CTO Gil Kirkpatrick and the U.K.-based Oxford Computer Group. I found time to sit in on the sessions on “MIIS 2003 And Identity Lifecycle Management 2007” and the “Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) Workshop” which were both head and shoulders above other so-called “training” sessions I’ve been to recently.

Oxford Director James Booth was formerly with Microsoft and, before that, with Zoomit – the creator of metadirectory technology and the “incubator” that gave us Microsoft’s Kim Cameron and Quest’s Jackson Shaw, who both frequently appear in this newsletter. Kirkpatrick’s all-day session, called “The Longhorn Active Directory Workshop,” was standing-room only, I hear, and an eye-opening introduction to the new server operating system.

There was a lot of interesting stuff at the rest of the conference, stuff I’ll look in more depth in the Identity Management newsletter but right now I want to talk about the latest Wook Lee challenge.

Each year at DEC, Microsoft’s Stuart Kwan, group program manager, federated identity and security, challenges HP directory architect Wook Lee to come up with a bit of poetry, doggerel, or other rhyming work focusing on some aspect of Microsoft directory technology. This year – even though Lee had to cancel a trip to the event at the last minute due to a pressing problem with a client – was no different. Kwan challenged, and Lee delivered by telephone and PowerPoint. The challenge was for Lee to re-watch the Muppet Movie and create a work to the tune of the opening number, “The Rainbow Connection”, performed by Kermit the Frog on the topic of “Secure Authentication”! Wook not only delivered the work, but constructed a karaoke version in PowerPoint so that everyone in the audience could sing along. You can too if you play the music while singing Wook’s words:

Strong Authentication

by Wook Lee

(with apologies to Kenny Ascher, Paul Williams and Kermit the Frog)

Why are there so many secure applications

With data that they must hide?

Users have different identifications

And secrets for each kept inside.

We all use passwords but always forget them.

I know that it’s wrong but you see.

Someday we'll find it, strong authentication,

The PKI dreamers and me.

Who said encryption keys can’t be asymmetric?

Encryption that goes just one way?

Somebody thought of keys, both private and public,

Now look where we are today.

X.509 certs are there for the asking.

We just have to pay a small fee.

Now we can buy it, strong authentication,

From VeriSign, Thawte, GTE.

They all have trusted CAs.

There’s even those folks up in Redmond...

Digital signatures? S/MIME encryption?

I’ve heard that it’s coming my way.

Smart Cards and dongles and TPM servers?

I’d better roll out that CA.

Now that my manager thinks that he owns it,

It's something that I must deploy.

I’ll have to run it, strong authentication,

The PKI service and me.

Laa, da daa dee da daa daa,

La laa la la laa dee daa doo...

Next year’s DEC will be held in Chicago and it should happen just before Longhorn ships (well, we can hope), so it’s going to be doubly important for you to be there. There was also hard news generated at the conference, and Network World’s John Fontana covered it in depth, See:

* “Identity systems all about making claims, Microsoft says”

* “NetPro updates tool to backup, restore Active Directory data”

* “Microsoft: Future for Active Directory is as identity provider”

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