IBM Betting Big on Identity Management

To IBM, identity management is bigger than big. IBM has always put a high priority on account control, and identity is inextricably linked to accounts. In the last few years, IBM has rounded out its identity management product offerings by making acquisitions, developing new products internally, integrated existing products, and forming partnerships.

At the same time, IBM is attempting to stay neutral and not require its customers to get locked into its own identity management products. The company is incorporating standards and supporting a range of directories, application servers, and databases.

IBM Goes Shopping for Identity Management

In mid-2000, IBM had a few loosely related identity and security products. In the approximately 30 months since then, IBM has invested in its directory services product, IBM Directory Server, filled in missing technology with acquisitions, and given its identity management effort a home in the Tivoli Division.

“IBM Tivoli Access Manager is a cornerstone of the play, with more customers and generating more income than other products in the suite,” says Mike Neuenschwander, senior analyst with Burton Group, who issued a report in April 2003 titled, “IBM’s Big Bet on Identity Management; Win by Breadth and Depth.”

In 2002, IBM acquired two identity management companies: Metamerge, a maker of meta directories, and Access360, a provisioning company. Since then, IBM has been working to integrate the acquired products into the line and reduce overlap with existing products. “Customers have been griping a little about the integration issues,” says Neuenschwander, acknowledging that prior to the acquisition, customers would have had multiple vendor relationships and completely separate products.

Joe Anthony, program director, security market management for IBM Tivoli, said the focus is on building a foundation for identity management within the enterprise. “It is typical for a large enterprise to have over 100 repositories for identities, in e-mail directories and applications,” he says. “Where you are going to keep the authoritative source of identity information is the question.”

The products in IBM’s identity management line include:

  • IBM Tivoli Directory Server: first released in 1997 as IBM eNetwork Directory, soon after Netscape released its directory server (now owned by Sun Microsystems). Directory Server was built atop Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). It features multi-master replication and a browser-based user interface. The data store is a DB2 database.
  • IBM Tivoli Access Manager: Built atop the IntraVerse product that IBM acquired from DASCOM in January of 2000. Tivoli Access Manager is used to authorize users to a range of systems, such as Web servers and applications. It helps comply with privacy and other government regulations by defining access policies, which can be audited. It can also define roles for users that incorporate the systems and functions users can access. IBM has more than 100 relationships with suppliers of software products that tie to Access Manager.