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Musings on Identity Management

This post is an edited version of an email I sent to the Red Hat Identity Management (IdM) team mailing list that outlines the main take-aways from my first few months working on the FreeIPA identity management solution.

I’m over three months into my new gig on the identity management team at Red Hat now, so I would like to share a few thoughts about what I’ve learned about identity management.

I was excited to come into this role because of my innate interest in security and cryptography. I had little practical experience with PKI and security protocols beyond basic X.509/TLS and OpenPGP, so I have been relishing the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and experience and solve problems in this domain.

What I did not understand, when I joined, was just how much an effective IdM strategy and infrastructure can benefit businesses and large communities in the form of improved security and reduced risk (two sides of the same coin, one could argue) and of course, greater efficiency. The diversity of use cases and the versatility of our software to address these use cases also amazed me.

This added perspective motivates me to seek opportunities to talk to people and find out about their IdM needs and how existing offerings (ours or others) are falling short, and work out what we as a team can do to better meet and even anticipate their needs. It has also given me a foundation to explain to non-technical people what FreeIPA and related projects are all about, and help them understand how our solutions can help their business or community.

I say “community” above because I have begun to see that free software communities represent valuable proving grounds for FreeIPA. For example, a couple of weeks ago during PyCon Australia I was chatting to Nick Coghlan and learned that the Python community is currently struggling with a proliferation of identity silos -developer accounts, PSF memberships and roles, the main website, PyPI, and so on. Yet noone has put their hand up to address this. I didn’t quite commit to writing a PEP to fix all that (yet) but we agreed that this represents a great opportunity to employ FreeIPA to benefit an important project and community - important for our team and for Red Hat as well as for the software industry in general. How many other communities to whom we have links or on whom we rely could benefit from FreeIPA in a similar way? And how much will our solutions be improved, and new innovations discovered, by what we might learn in working with these communities to improve their identity management?

So, that’s most of what I wanted to say, but I want to thank you all for your assistance and encouragement during my first few months. It has been quite a shift adapting to working with a global team, but I am really enjoying working with you on Red Hat IdM and am excited for our future.

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