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Perfect Storm: How About Perfect Opportunity?

Feb 01, 2019, by Kevin Morooney
Tags: Trust & Identity

"The Perfect Storm," a book published in 1997, told the story of a confluence of events that led to a fishing boat caught in 100-foot waves in the Atlantic (for you physics geeks, there are really good passages about how freak waves behave). Since then, that phrase has entered the lexicon to describe things from Hurricane Sandy to why a hipster couldn’t make his date on Saturday night.

We have our own set of converging events facing InCommon and Trust and Identity, but I believe these represent a perfect opportunity, rather than a storm.

Here's why: 

Funding for the three-year, one-time TIER (Trust and Identity in Education and Research) -- program was ending. That program has provided the community with an integrated IAM suite of software including Shibboleth, Grouper, COmanage, midPoint, and others that is much easier to install, configure, and operate.

The Shibboleth Consortium has changed its support model to "best effort" for organizations that aren’t Consortium members. This actually happened earlier, but caused the InCommon governance and advisory groups to discuss the best way to deliver support for Shibboleth to InCommon participants, given its use by 90% of InCommon Federation Identity Providers.

The intensive TIER development made for the realization that the InCommon Federation and the community-developed software platform are interdependent, and the value for an organization increases substantially when both are used.

Community feedback gathered  from working groups and discussions at various meetings and venues was clear: continue to develop the software and make sure it is sustainable for the foreseeable future.

Over the last nine months, our advisory and governing groups have discussed various scenarios for how to address each of these issues in turn. The path that emerged was to underscore that the InCommon Federation and the software solutions are interdependent: enabling global single sign-on requires the software and the trust federation to be supported and evolve in lock step, based on the community’s changing needs. The InCommon fees then should change to also include this software development and support that participants need to operate successfully.

This recently announced InCommon fee change would generate $2.5M annually to cover this new strategic direction. These funds would pick up where the TIER funding left off ($1.225 million annually) for software development and engineering. The change will also provide reliable support for InCommon participants that use Shibboleth and ease of mind for those relying on partners that use that software.

In the end, the goal is to make it easier and more trustworthy for organizations to enable access to its services by the users that need them whether locally, nationally or globally.

I invite you to visit the InCommon Future 2019 wiki page for an FAQ, a link to the recording of the January 16 webinar on this topic (and the slides), and other resources.