Blogger: Dan Blum
One of our service directors likes to quote William Gibson: “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”
At Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business (STB) Analyst and Tech Ed conferences last week, I saw a vendor and a user community living in the past, present and future with many unevenly distributed capabilities.
In a session on identity management strategy, for example, Microsoft discussed a variety of initiatives. These range from Card Space (futuristic implementation of user-centric Information Card specifications) to ADFS (present day enterprise federation support, though unfortunately lacking full SAML capabilities) to self-service password reset exposed through Office (decidedly backward-looking as this functionality has been available from many vendors through browsers for many years).
In another session on rights management and SharePoint, Microsoft highlighted the opportunity to configure SharePoint libraries to automatically apply Active Directory Rights Management Services protections on downloaded documents. Digital rights management (DRM) is controversial and no strong guarantor of confidentiality. Nonetheless, it is a way to put futuristic self-protecting wrappers on content so as to prevent its accidental leakage or misuse by honest, cooperative users. Because it’s not something that can resist certain types of malicious attackers, many security professionals look down their noses at rights management. Nonetheless, preventing accidental misuse of enterprise information is a big part of the space. It was clear from the number of people in the room asking intelligent questions suggesting realistic expectations that customers see potential value for this technology.
Finally, I was impressed by a presentation on IPSec, PKI and NAP by a Brazilian university IT manager named Rodrigo Imaginario. Starting three years ago, the university combined its student and administrative networks into a single network. Yet servers running ERP and containing administrative content (such as grading information) need to be protected from a subset of students going through their hacking stage. Imaginario implemented a logical security zoning overlay on top of the network using IPSEC in Windows. In the restricted zone, servers only accept connections from Kerberos-authenticated IPSEC clients in the administrative domain. Today, the authentication is being upgraded to use PKI for secure, all campus wireless networking. Imaginario indicated the university took the Windows IPSEC route approach because no additional software had to be purchased. Configuration was difficult, he said, but will get easier with Windows Server 2008. This sounds like an idea whose time has come.