Conversation comes back around to virtual directories

* What the Identarati are talking about now

Identity, it has been said, is the platform on which Web services is built. But identity services are also built on a platform, and that platform is the directory.

Many computer applications, services (and even operating systems) have their own directory - the place where user information and data is stored. Creating another directory is child's play - that's why most enterprises have so many of them. To some, the answer to that problem is a meta-directory such as Microsoft's Identity Integration Server. But it really irks me when people suggest that the solution to the multitude of datastores for directory information is to install yet another directory. Virtual directories provide most of the benefits of meta-directories, but without the need for establishing a new, enterprise-wide "uber" directory system.

There are currently, as far as I can tell, four companies that are primarily in the virtual directory business: Radiant Logic, OctetString, MaXware and SymLabs. I try to follow them closely because I believe that their products are absolutely necessary for the "interesting" things that the "Identarati" like to do.

<aside> Mark Dixon reminded me of the term "Identarati," which Burton Group associate research director Mike Neuenschwander used at last month's Catalyst conference to describe "those of us who make our living in the identity industry - in other words, those of us who are forced (or compelled) to get this stuff." </aside>

I've known Michel Prompt Radiant Logic founder and CEO, and Clayton Donley OctetString founder and CTO, for many years. In these newsletters, I've talked about them and quoted them more often than just about anyone else. At their respective companies, they both work on a single product: Radiant Logic's Radiant One server and OctetString's Virtual Directory Server. They do one thing and they do it very well.

I've known MaXware almost as long, but don't get to see CTO Tor Even Dahl very often (he's in Trondheim, Norway. I'm not) but it's always a pleasure when I do. SymLabs is fairly new to me having first come across the company last year. But it is a relatively young company - it wasn't founded until after I'd already written about the other three virtual directory vendors. I did get to catch up with SymLabs Sales and Marketing Vice President Felix Gaehtgens and Chief Architect Sampo Kellomäki (along with Dahl, Donley and Prompt) at the recent Catalyst conference.

All four companies are still stressing the value and benefit of virtualization for the directory space. All four, in fact, said that the needs of provisioning and federation would be best served with a virtual directory as the basis of the architecture. Symlabs and MaXware have already announced Federation servers built on their virtual engines (Symlabs is shipping its product, while MaXware's server is due out late this year). Radiant Logic and OctetString are content - for now - to allow their technology partners to add federation services to their directory products.

All seemed excited by what's happening in the directory - especially the virtual directory - space. It's possible, in fact, that the latest buzz in identity - user-centric identity - could provide the impetus to thrust virtual directories back into the forefront of the identity conversation. I'll explore that a bit more next time.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.