Marketing could decide IdM battle

This year’s Novell Brainshare user conference offered what amounted to a dual-themed tech extravaganza. On one hand, there was Linux, which has been, to say the least, a core element to the company’s strategy for some time now. On the other was identity management, a topic that, although not new to the Novell portfolio, has never enjoyed the kind of limelight it found itself in at the annual gathering of the faithful in Salt Lake City.

Novell used the occasion to introduce two new architectures on which it will aim to expand its identity management solutions, which fall under the firm’s Nsure umbrella. The focus on identity management certainly makes sense when one considers just what kind of demand there is out there for such software.

The less-positive side of the scenario for Novell, and arguably for the multitude of other identity management players in the space, is precisely that: the crowded nature of the environment. Demand is high, but supply definitely isn’t lacking. Novell will have to serve up offerings that are highly differentiated from its competitors to barge its way into a hyper-competitive IT sub-market.

Because the problems that identity management software is trying to tackle are relatively new to the enterprise, the landscape for innovation around products to solve those worries is wide open. The vendors that are most in touch with the concerns of IT managers and CIOs in the area of identity management, and that transform that knowledge into reliable, headache-relieving solutions, will win out. Keeping track of employee data within an organization has become a nightmare for many IT departments. Because most information has been converted from paper to electronic form over the past decade, the location and accuracy of such data has often been lost or compromised within the bowels of companies’ servers and PCs. Old passwords and ID numbers, never cleansed from the system, allow former employees access to sensitive company data.

Also, out-of-date identity methods have made it difficult to grant or deny access to partners and customers wishing to gain access to a company’s online resources. How many millions of dollars have been spent attempting to rectify such trouble?

These are but a pair of problems that identity management offerings are trying to rectify. And IT departments are presented with a plethora of vendors willing to sell them solutions. Ultimately, the winning products will a) be the easiest to use, b) be the easiest to set up and maintain and c) integrate as seamlessly as possible with existing infrastructures.

And let’s not forget the importance of marketing. If Novell stays true to its roots, the technology will be solid. Whether it will be able to keep up with the likes of IBM and Oracle in letting the world know about its wares might be another matter entirely.

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