Fischer targets identity services at service providers

* Providing identity as a service

At the end of the last century, I touted a new technology niche: “e-provisionware.” That name didn’t stick, but the concept of electronic provisioning did, creating the revolution in enterprise identity management that dominates today’s infrastructure platform.

At the time, all companies providing provisioning engines (all two of them) could be considered niche players. It was only later, through acquisition or their own growth that they became major players in the enterprise software market. But now we're seeing the rise of other “niche” players in the provisioning space. And the “niche” part isn’t because they’re small or new start-ups, but because they emphasize a particular so-called “vertical” market as the target of their wares.

I had the opportunity last week to chat with the CEOs and other execs from Sentillion and Fischer International about what they’re doing in identity management, specifically the e-provisioning space. We’ll look at Fischer today and Sentillion in the other in the next issue.

Fischer International celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, so obviously it hasn’t always been in the provisioning – or even the identity – space. But it has been involved in security all that time, which naturally evolves into an interest in authentication and authorization which leads, by natural progression, to provisioning. Fischer doesn’t discriminate among markets, verticals or any other indicator as far as who is the end-users of its provisioning (and other identity tools); its innovation is in the delivery mechanism for its applications and services.

Fischer wants to be the biggest supplier of outsourcing identity tools, and to that end it has targeted service providers as its primary clients and partners.

CEO Renee Bacherman makes no bones about it when she states that she wants her company to control the managed identity services market. When I suggested that this meant foregoing the enterprise market in favor of small and midsize business players, Bacherman was emphatic that this was far from the case. She mentioned a number of larger organizations (whose names I can’t reveal) that have outsourced all or part of their identity management to management service providers. They haven’t abdicated all control, though. Instead, the “mixed administration” model Fischer uses allows the enterprise to maintain final authority and control while outsourcing the more mundane management aspects to the service provider.

Steve Tillery, Fischer CTO and senior VP of engineering added that by making this choice of marketing target, he could focus his software engineers on constructing tools designed for non-specialists, the generalists who more and more populate corporate IT departments as downsizing takes its toll. The service providers can afford identity specialists while Fischer can provide easy to use - almost point-and-click - tools for the enterprise to use.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about the possibility of outsourcing such an important a function as identity management, but Bacherman and Tillery convinced me it’s at least worth taking a look at. Maybe you should, too. You might also want to read Bacherman’s thought-provoking piece “Customers First...and other lies”.

Events: Another Webinar next week: “How Bell Helicopter Improved Identity and Access Management with Roles”, presented by Bridgestream, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Sun, Tuesday, May 15, at 9 a.m. PDT, 12 p.m. EDT. This 60-minute webinar will present a real-life case study on how Bell Helicopter is implementing a role life-cycle management solution.

Downloads: Bill Brant, of Directory Services, Inc., has released an open source connector for Novell’s DirXML engine. The DirXML Driver for SYSLOG allows automated data synchronization between Unix/Linux applications and Novell’s eDirectory. Read about it and get it at SourceForge.

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