Today’s focus: Federation finds its way into market sectors

By Dave Kearns
Network World Newsletter

Ping Identity, sponsor of the SourceID Web site that distributes an open-source version of a Liberty Alliance-certified federated identity toolkit, recently surveyed folks who downloaded the toolkit to find out about their federation projects.

Altogether 157 people took part in the survey (although not all answered every question). Not surprisingly, 59% reported that their enterprise was involved in the technology sector. The other respondents came from the following sectors:

* Education (11%).
* Telecom (8%).
* Finance (6%).
* Government (5%).
* Healthcare (2%).
* Other (9%).

Given the open-source nature of the download, education wasn’t a big surprise at No. 2. What was surprising to me, though, was that healthcare was so far down the list – particularly considering the huge push for identity management in the healthcare industries due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It may be that the HIPAA requirements for privacy and security are restraining the healthcare industry from even experimenting with federation until more all-encompassing standards have emerged. The Liberty Alliance (or one of its members) might look into doing a healthcare case study of federation as an impetus to this market.

A full 41% of folks surveyed said the focus of their federation project was internal, while 21% said the focus was external and 38% noted it was both. Again, this isn’t surprising considering the experience most vendors reported during the past 18 months in which clients were very eager to implement internal single sign-on solutions while exploring other aspects of federation.

The surprise could be that 38% of the projects reported in the survey have at least some component that is outward facing.

Business partners represented the bulk (58%) of the participants in federation projects. Others included: customers (30%), suppliers (17%), and other (3%).

“Other,” in this context, probably means regulatory bodies. The low number for suppliers at first surprised me, but reflection led me to believe that previous “value chain” projects would already have tied organizations and their suppliers closely together. Federation, even though it was initially presented as an e-commerce initiative to facilitate movement among sites by customers is, in fact, strongly involved with getting agreements among peers (or “partners”) to do the federating. So there’s really no surprise in this answer.

The survey also showed that most projects were still in the planning stages (73%) with implementation at least six months away (59%). But there was one result that did surprise me – even after reflecting on the choice. I’ll devote the next issue of the newsletter to the survey respondents’ choice of protocols and standards.

The survey is available from http://www.pingidentity.com/

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