Just in time for Christmas Samba 4.0 was released. This big news here is Samba 4.0 adds Active Directory Domain Controller emulation, including Kerberos, LDAP, DNS, and a bunch of other services.
While this is an impressive technical achievement, I don’t really see many enterprises adopting it. Samba 4 is fighting against one of the biggest IT pressures, headcount reduction. Most enterprises are now willing to pay more for the license cost of the software if it saves them administrative man hour costs.
So unless Samba 4 is going to be easier to install and maintain than Windows servers, it’s not really going to have an impact. Who knows, maybe it will be that easy. If you have Samba 4 in production drop me a comment and let me know what you think.
Meanwhile, Jackson Shaw is … unimpressed.
Posted in AD, Identity, Kerberos, LDAP, Linux, Open Source, Security, Software
Tagged Active Directory, AD, Kerberos, Open Source, Samba 4
Last week at TechEd Microsoft disclosed their new Graph API for Windows Azure Active Directory. Graph API is a RESTful web service for accessing the identity system behind Windows Azure and Office365.
This is an interesting development because it will enable Azure and Office365 customers to provision with systems other than FIM. While Graph API is not specifically an identity management API like SPML and SCIM, the capabilities are effectively the same in the context of the Azure environment.
There is a great presentation on this here, including a demo of the soon to be released OptimalIdM support.
It seems strange that there is so little attention being paid to this. It really an important step in cloud identity.
There is an idea that has been kicked around in IdM for years called Security Policy Provisioning. Basically the idea is that you have a system that takes centrally managed security policies and pushes them out to disparate system, the same way provisioning systems manage user accounts. We kicked around the idea of building a Security Policy Provisioning product back at OpenNetwork, but never did. In all honesty I had expected some IdM vendor to have added this feature to their provisioning engine by now, but as far as I know none ever went farther than user role management.
Well Axiomatics has apparently rolled it out in the guise of pushing their XACML policies to Windows Server 2012 to leverage the new authorization features. This is a very neat idea.
Of course after you push out the policies, Windows Server 2012 becomes the PDP as well as the PEP. You could develop a similar solution without using XACML at all.
I recently saw two polar opposite recommendations; one from Jeff Atwood begging you to not write code; and one from Radovan Semančík suggesting that the only practical software to use is open source software that you can fix as needed.
Obviously Radovan’s approach is not a scalable one. While there are a lot of terrible software products out there, especially in the enterprise space, there are also a lot of good ones that just work. Limiting yourself to coding solutions is a waste of time that most companies won’t pay for. Also Radovan’s solution limits you to open source solutions implemented in a language you are familiar with.
At the same time there are some problems that just need a coding solution, or are best solved that way.
For enterprise solution I am going to thread the path between Jeff’s Scylla and Radovan’s Charybdis by posing these questions:
- How much coding should be expected to implement an enterprise solution?
- How can you find enterprise solutions the works well enough you don’t need the source code or extensive customizations?
An enterprise solution that requires you to write code or scripts to do basic functionality is not well designed, in my opinion. Coding or scripting should only be required wheen the functionality needed is unique to a specific deployment (or too uncommon enough to be a main feature of the product). This is a core philosophy at OptimalIdM as well. Although the VIS virtual directory does support .NET plug-ins, most of our customers never need one. When we have seen the need for plug-ins in the past we looked for a common feature that could be added to the product.
So not having to write code one measure an enterprise solution’s quality. Here are some others:
Ease of install – they say you only get one chance to make a good first impression and install time is it for enterprise software. If your vendor is telling you that you need consulting hours just to install the software, it’s not going to get better from there.
Ease of use – requiring training to use enterprise software is a bad sign. Did you have to have training to use your browser or word processor? Enterprise software should be like that.
Stability – once installed and configured the software should just work. Baby-sitting should not be required. And if you really need two weeks of work or the source code to figure out why your solution stopped working, you made a poor vendor choice.
So go ahead and write code, but only when you have to.
OptimalIdM announced its new Office365 offering this morning. You can read the announcement here.
This has been an great project to work on. OptimalIdM can now enhance Office365 with a great set of new features and can do so for both the WS-Federation Passive and Active profiles. The Active Profile is used for Office365 Lync and Outlook support.
The new features we add to Office365 include easy multi-forest support, support for non-AD users, support for users with non-addressable UPNs, two-factor authentication, auditing, and a whole bunch of other features.
Posted in AD, Authentication, Cloud computing, Identity, Identity Management, Microsoft, Security, Standards, WS-Trust
Tagged Identity, Office365, WS-Federation
Softerra has released an open source C# implementation of SPML V2 (DSML profile). I haven’t had time to play around with it yet, but it looks interesting.
Now what would be really great would be some developers to take this and create some implementations that do useful stuff. For instance write a service provider for provisioning and reconciling AD accounts. Or perhaps integrate it with Microsoft FIM.
Posted in AD, Identity Management, Open Source, Provisioning, SPML
Tagged AD, DSML, FIM, Identity Management, Open Source, Provisioning, SPML
Johannes Ernst is predicting the demise of the RDBMS (and by extension Oracle) due to the growing popularity of NoSQL. While these kinds of technology trends are hard to predict, there is a lot of logic to what Johannes is saying. He could very well be proven prophetic.
But this is familiar ground. We have been here before.
I remember in the mid 90’s when Object Databases were going to kill the RDBMS. Of course what really happened was that Object-Relational-Mapping APIs became popular instead.
Later XML Databases were going to kill the RDBMS. Instead RDBMS vendors added native XML capabilities to their mainline products.
There are specific functional areas where RDBMSs have been displaced. For instance LDAP directories have mostly replaced RDBMSs for identity and authentication information. But this has not dented overall RDBMS usage.
So can NoSQL slay the RDBMS after OO and XML failed? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t short Oracle just yet.
Posted in AD, Authentication, Development, Identity, LDAP
Tagged Authentication, Identity, LDAP, NoSQL, Object Database, RDBMS, XML
Mark Diodati sums up the recent SPML threads here. But one questions that needs to be answered, if not SPML then what? One alternative that has been put forward by Mark Diodati, Mark Wilcox, and others is the LDAP (or DSML) pull model of provisioning.
This model is to expose your user accounts via LDAP using a Virtual Directory (VD) instance exposed to your service provider. The service provider would periodically make calls to the VD to look for account CRUD operations.
There are several compelling advantages to this model;
- LDAP is already a standard protocol
- There are defacto standard schemas (the most common of which is the standard AD account)
- This is really just an extension of a model that has already been embraced in the enterprise (look at how many apps can be AD enabled)
Could that be it? Is the solution to service provider provisioning really this simple? No, at least not without SAML. While this model shows promise there is a problem; passwords. If your enterprise is not ready to use SAML to authenticate to your service provider, then you are left with two choices; both unpleasant.
First you could just punt on passwords and force your users to manage their passwords on their own. This is no worse than the situation without any provisioning, but certainly not where you could be if you used a provisioning solution to push the passwords out to the service provider as needed.
The second is to expose your password hashes via your VD. If your service provider supports the same salting and hashing algorithms, then the passwords could be synchronized by copying the hash across. In fact the recent version of the Google apps dir sync utility claims to be able to do just that.
But think about this for a moment. If you do that then the service provider knows the clear text password to log into your network for every one of your users that actually uses the service. After all, the user has to provide the clear text password to the service provider’s login page to generate the hash value to compare to the hash you sent them. If that’s the same as the hash value in AD, then the service provider knows your AD password by definition.
Do you trust Google with the clear text AD passwords? I’m not picking on Google; there simply aren’t any service providers I would trust with that information.
Another alternative I have heard is that the service provider’s login page would make an LDAP bind call back to the VD with the supplied password to do the authentication. Again, that gives the service provider a clear text version of your AD password.
Are you sure you really want to do that?
But if your enterprise and your service provider can implement SAML, then the LDAP pull model looks a lot more compelling. I would be curious to hear from anyone that has implemented this or is thinking of implementing it. And if anyone is using the password hash sync approach, I would be interested in hearing about as well.
Posted in AD, Authentication, Google, Identity, Password Management, Provisioning, SAML, SPML, Standards, Virtual Directory
Tagged Authentication, Google, Provisioning, SAML, SPML, Virtual Directory
OptimalIdM has announce support for Microsoft WIF (you can get more info here). What they have done is pretty interesting. The have created an STS that front ends their Virtual Directory. This allows a single STS to be used to issue claims against multiple identity stores.
Of course the main use case here is the multiple AD forest scenario, but it could also support disparate identity stores such as other LDAP directories, databases, etc.
[Full disclosure: I have done consulting work for OptimalIdm in the past.]
Posted in AD, Identity, Identity Bus, Standards, Virtual Directory
Tagged AD, ADFS, Federation, Identity, OptimalIdM, Virtual Directory, WIF