RSA Takes Federated Approach to Identity Management to the Cloud

Michael Vizard

One of the more challenging issues hampering the broad adoption of cloud computing in the enterprise is identity management. Right now, most IT organizations are dependent on Microsoft Active Directory for managing identities in the enterprise. As yet, there is no direct equivalent of Active Directory in the cloud, which is creating an opportunity for vendors such as the RSA unit of EMC.

RSA recently expanded its suite of identity and access management (IAM) offerings to include a new RSA Adaptive Directory and a new federation-as-a-service offering called RSA Adaptive Federation. According to Nirav Mehta, director of product management for identity and data protection for RSA, the security division of EMC, RSA Adaptive Federation applies some of the same technology that the VMware unit of EMC used to develop its Horizon Application Manager offering. RSA Adaptive Directory can be deployed to manage private clouds running on premise or in third-party data centers.

Mehta says the complexity of identity management in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement is going to force the identity management issue in the cloud. While RSA Adaptive Directory, based on virtual directory technology, is designed to integrate with Microsoft Active Directory, the latter offering was never really designed to support multiple devices running different operating systems, which are owned by a same person, or devices that are not actually owned by the company.

The new reality of identity management requires a more federated approach that incorporates not only Microsoft Active Directory, but also all the identity management frameworks that are included in any number of existing enterprise applications via standards such as the Secure Assertion Markup Language (SAML). Instead of requiring IT organizations to deploy a meta-directory to replace all those directories, Mehta says RSA Adaptive Directory allows IT organizations to utilize existing directory investments.

That’s critical, adds Mehta, because given all the application, network, security and compliance people in the enterprise who have a stake in identity management, it’s not always clear who is in charge of it. A federated approach allows an IT organization to unify the management of identities without necessarily having to launch a turf war over who controls it.

With the rise of mobile and cloud computing, identity management has finally reached the point where a comprehensive approach to managing it is now required. The challenge facing IT organizations is finding a way to tackle that challenge in the least disruptive way possible.



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