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TIER Contributor Profile: Brian Savage, Boston College

Jul 21, 2016, by Michael Zawacki
Tags: TIER, Trust and Identity in Education and Research

Brian Savage has used his involvement as a way to both help TIER and strengthen his institution’s enterprise architecture practices.

The Trust and Identity in Education and Research (TIER) program relies on the contributions of an extended community. Brian Savage, an enterprise architect at Boston College, has used his involvement as a way to both help TIER and strengthen his institution's enterprise architecture practices.

With respect to identity and access management, Boston College has an established legacy of central control of master data and data flows. As a result, it can focus on refining functionality and incremental replacement of components. From Brian's perspective, the TIER functional model provides a stable reference point as it mirrors Boston College's strategy of having centrally responsible components and a growing non-proprietary set of API and messaging interfaces.

Brian's TIER involvement complements his other forays into higher education collaborations over the years, including ITANA, Jasig, Kuali, NERCOMP, CAS and CIFER.   A thread throughout such groups is the recognition that common solutions, driven by highly similar business requirements, will be far less costly than parallel reinventions. Brian notes that "this recurring theme is always compelling and energizes value propositioners, but the work necessary is no less difficult than in any major product endeavor."

TIER working group collaboration at 2016 Internet2 Global Summit

(Above) TIER working groups collaborations—such as this one at the 2016 Internet2 Global Summit in Chicago—are key to advancing Trust and Identity in Education and Research. Thanks to Brian Savage of Boston College, subject of this profile, and to all the TIER community contributors.

Brian joined the TIER Data Structures and APIs, and TIER Packaging working groups to cross paths with TIER experts and assay technologies he was already tracking, such as API design and management, lightweight containers, and master data management. "To be most effective, enterprise architects need to continually curate modern technologies as well as develop high-level strategies, guidance and artifacts.” Brian says. “TIER is an ambitious infrastructure project, with informed folks wrestling with technological choices, and as such is a proving ground for what actually works."

Beyond providing another experienced voice, Brian has helped develop the TIER Standards and Guidelines into a consolidated form that is a focal piece for the community. He has also used Swagger, the specification underpinning the Open API Initiative, to craft definitions of the initial group API operations and proposed resource schemas in web responses at the back-end. The latter provided members the ability to interact with concrete, prototypical examples without taxing developers at the outset.

Brian credits TIER's encouragement of contributions from varied sources and the provisioning of access to TIER tools and resources as key ingredients for motivating independent contributors like himself. "In an effort to expedite work among a core group, many forward-looking projects inadvertently close the context to a silent majority of interested technologists. The fact that I, as an independent stakeholder of sorts, have been able to contribute as time allows is a tribute to the openness and flexibility of the project."

Keith Hazelton, University of Wisconsin - Madison, and chair of the TIER Data Structures and APIs working group, comments, “We appreciate Brian’s working group participation and his multiple contributions to the TIER effort. We hope to see more from him in the coming weeks and months.”