Wednesday, May 29, 2013

IT Service Catalog evolution

One of the eternal problems in Enterprise IAM is to bridge the gap between how the business looks at an entitlement and how this entitlement is actually provisioned and managed by IT into the target systems.

If look back to the 2001-2005 area when the first provisioning tools like Thor Xellerate (later OIM) and Access 360 ( later TIM and now ISIM) entered the market the tools basically offered a capability to automate the creation of core identities and the associated target system identities. The approach that these systems took closely followed how the enterprise access administrators within IT looked at the world. Most of these systems came with a request interface of variable level of usability (they were user friendly, they were just very picky about who they wanted to be friends with).

Move forward a bit to the 2005-2006 era and the request interfaces became more understandable but as they were meta data driven they were hampered by the basic data structure that basically dictated that a line item in the request interface should be a resource object which out of the box usually mapped to a user account in a target system. This is not very useful if what the business wants is to manage business entitlements which maps to one or more attributes such a group membership on the target system.

One way to solve this problem was to get yourself on of the new role management tools such as Vaau Role Manager (later Sun Role Manager and now Oracle Role Manager) or Bridgestream (later Oracle Role Manger and now dead). This approach worked if you could get the business to consolidate their access profiles into a set of distinct business roles that could then be mapped to IT roles that contained the actual entitlements.

Sometimes you could even map the users to business roles through user attributes such as physical location, cost center or reporting chain. If this was possible you had reached the nirvana of totally automated provisioning.

In practice this approach turned out to be hard to implement as it was very hard to capture the very complex nature of an enterprise entitlement management in a set of discrete rules. By the time you had finished one role mining the business had reorganized and you needed to start more or less from scratch. It was also very hard to get the business to spend time on working on defining and maintaining business roles.

If you couldn't get the money to buy a role mining and management tool what did you do then?

One option was to write your own which I did for an IBM IAM stack implementation that ran 2010-2011. This worked decently well to generate a base set of entitlements that should be given to each user upon user creation but the challenge was to keep the configuration files updated as the business evolved.

You could of course create a custom user interface that encapsulated all the complexities but that was a very expensive approach both from a time and cost perspective. I followed that approach in a Oracle eBusiness provisioning enablement project using IBM TIM in 2008 and it worked great but the project cost was substantial and the scope was limited to a single target system. Sena system as well as other system integrators have done a number of very successful implementations using this approach and if you have the time and funds and have a very complex it landscape this is clearly the approach that gives you the best result.

Another approach was to encapsulate the atomic entitlements into requestable objects and then present the business with a very long list of objects that they had to chose from. This approach was favored by the major analyst houses back in the 2010-2011 time frame and certainly works.

If you want to follow this approach using OIM I wrote some articles on how to do it back in 2010 that may be of interest:

As always there are downsides with taking this approach. One major downside is that the list of entitlements tends to get rather large in a major enterprise which makes it very hard for the business to pick the right entitlement which in turn makes the business very unhappy.

In OIM11G R2 there is a new concept called the catalog that gives you a new tool to address this particular issue. I will take a deeper look at catalog in a later post but it is a really nice addition to OIM and give you a low cost alternative to the custom interface.

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