Feasting on identity management

* Identity management works best integrated with complementary dishes

I spent last week in Boston for Courion's annual "Converge" meeting for its customers and partners. It was an interesting week, as always (this was my third visit to the event) and I'll touch on some of the highlights over the next few issues. But to start, I want to continue a bit on the "Parker Brothers" analogy for identity management projects.

While talking to Kurt Johnson, Courion's vice president of corporate development, Deb Pappas, vice president of marketing, and Chris Sullivan, vice president of customer solutions, the talk turned to "best of breed" vs. "integrated suite" - the choices that drove the comparison to the game of Monopoly. But one of the highlights of Converge this year was the large number of technical partners (such as Citrix, RSA, Trusted Network Technologies, Imprivata, Encentuate and more) that are working closely with Courion to provide a complete portfolio of identity products.

Now "integrated suite" means all of the products/modules/services come from one vendor. "Best of breed" implies that you, the customer, pick and choose among all the offerings and then cobble together an overall identity management plan. But Courion presents a third option - the ability to pick a base product, a "platform" and then integrate third party products (with choices in most categories) with the integration done by the vendors rather than the customer.

What we finally came up with was a restaurant analogy.

"Best of Breed" is like dining a la carte. You choose the appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, etc., from all of the offerings of the kitchen to put together your own vision of a meal. Perhaps the parts work well together, perhaps not. An "integrated suite" is like a chef's tasting menu - there are few, if any, choices and all diners at the table have to have the same dishes. You don't even get to choose the courses you'd like - they're all delivered to you although you certainly don't have to eat them. The benefit, of course, is that (if the chef is good) they're all designed to integrate into a single memorable meal.

What Courion is offering (along with others) is more like a banquet menu. You, the customer, sit down with the chef and from a limited number of choices pick the meal that will be served to all of your guests. You get to choose those things you like while relying on the chef to steer you towards choices that are complementary.

Some may prefer one method, some another. But the important thing to realize is that when it comes to the identity management feast there's more than one way to make the meal.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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