Keeping the Music Playing: IAM Today and Tomorrow

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By Kevin Morooney - Vice President of Trust and Identity and NET+, Internet2

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”

Ka’ala, @alohakaala: “Autumn teaches us the beauty of letting go. Growth requires release—it’s what the trees do.”

Ernest Hemingway: “You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”

Autumn trees photographed in the distance.

Much like Nietzche, Ka’ala, and Hemingway describe, autumn, for me, is the season of greatest reflection. The sun is setting on the year while there remains an abundance of artifacts of the journey afforded so far. The combination of this being autumn and having attended TechEX and participated in the InCommon Futures2 project along with getting ready for CommEX early next year have provided an excess of reflection opportunities. This is a lot to digest and synthesize and I’m by no means done, but there is one theme that has been intensely played over and over: IAM is challenging.

A Musical Metaphor

When I was a pre-teen becoming a teen, I dove headfirst into music like so many of us do. It was a relatively special time for music consumption because how you listened to the music was a badge of honor (or dishonor) of sorts. A significant component of the importance of the “how” were the easily acquired options for listening: cassette tapes, eight-track tapes, LPs, and 45s. It was fairly common to walk into a record store (here’s my current favorite one) and find a popular artist with a popular album on three different platforms. And the “how” wasn’t limited to home listening. There were options – many options – for how you could build a car sound system as well.

Old vintage radio, speaker, and turntable in a magazine posting.

The spectrum of music listeners spanned a continuum from high performance components all stitched together to all-in-one solutions. My friends who had the wherewithal to buy a high performance turn-table, the best needles, an amplifier, equalizer, cassette player, and several different kinds of speakers talked about their setups as much as and sometimes more than their favorite artists. Kids like me who ran with hand-me-down, all-in-one solutions usually tried to hide the fact that we had such a pauper’s listening experience or keep the conversation focused on the music so as not to be found out. 

Over time – a lot of time – the importance of the distinction between all-in-one solutions and best of breed component solutions melted away. Us music lovers moved to an environment of not caring so much about how one another experienced the music and focused mostly on the music and the artist.

In Conversation with the Community

This autumn I’ve been hearing consistent themes when people talk about their IAM infrastructures: the warts, the cleverness, the hopes, the challenges. They remind me of some of the dynamics relating to music listening in my youth.

  1. “Our solution is a patchwork of solutions, stitched together. It’s kind of a mess.”
  2. “We need an easy button.”
  3. “We’re constantly in some state of repair or reboot with our IAM solutions. We never seem to get it quite right.”

There are variations on these themes but these capture most of it. Let me unpack these three a little more.

“Our solution is a patchwork of solutions, stitched together. It’s kind of a mess.”

All IAM infrastructures are a patchwork of solutions, stitched together. Stop fretting and start celebrating. You are not a mess.

“We need an easy button.”

There is no easy button, so please stop looking. Ponce de Leon would have been better off if an older brother had told him to eat right, exercise, and sleep well – as opposed to hunting for a mythological fountain of youth. Doing  IAM is challenging. Doing IAM well even more so. IAM infrastructures are where organizational policies and cultures meet the eyeballs and fingertips of people trying to get work done, get paid, pay a bill, enter a building, buy something, change benefits, etc.

“We’re constantly in some state of repair or reboot with our IAM solutions. We never seem to get it quite right.”

As your organization’s policies, risk tolerance, ambitions change, so does your IAM infrastructure. The change is constant and therefore so are changes to your IAM infrastructure.

Here to Help

No one has built an all-in-one IAM solution despite what the brochures and spam say. No one can afford a total best-of-breed approach. We’re left with a little bit of both: looking for tools that can solve a handful of problems, reducing complexity of implementation and design, and looking for tools to help pull it all together.

At InCommon we have some tools, infrastructures, and services that can help. In the InCommon Community are many hundreds of expert “music lovers” who understand IAM, designing infrastructures and the tradeoffs inherent to particular solutions. What we do and how we do it is focused on experiencing the music and much less about comparing if my solution is somehow better than yours. 

In the coming months, I’ll share more about what we’re doing – with your help – to keep the music playing.