Microsoft cranks out new identity management software

Forefront Identity Manager 2010 launched at the RSA Conference

Microsoft announced at the RSA Conference Tuesday that it has begun shipping Forefront Identity Manager 2010, server software for provisioning and de-provisioning user access and privileges for network and database resources.

Forefront Identity Manager 2010, the successor to Microsoft’s Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007, can be used to establish policy-based access controls tied to the user’s role in the organization. It features more end user self-service and automated IT administration features than the earlier product, according to Microsoft.

Early adopter First American Title Insurance, which has about 1,000 offices across the United States with 13,000 employees, discussed its use of the product for establishing access controls based on employee profiles tied to job functions. The process took about two months to establish, the company's IT executives said.

Scott Weir, IT manager for desktop architecture, said the human resources department assisted in the employee role-based definitions process. Forefront Identity Manager 2010 has a "rules engine" for establishing role-based access, but since not every employee's job role can easily fit into a neat pattern, there are also ways to have managers allow exceptions through a process that can be audited.

Forefront Identity Manager works with Active Directory and can also be used for identity synchronization with other directories, said Brendan Foley, Microsoft's director of product management. It also can be used with SharePoint as an administrative console to manage identities, such as setting up an end-user self-service mechanism to let users make requests, something First American Title Insurance is establishing now.

Each time an employee at First American gains access via a Windows-based desktop, the information is shared with the centralized Forefront identity Manager server over the MPLS network the business uses to connect its offices. This way, the users gain appropriate access to network and database resources. Before Forefront Identity Manager was in place, provisioning "would take up to two days," said Cameron Cosgrove, First American’s vice president of infrastructure. "We went from two days to two seconds." De-provisioning a user is also far simpler, he adds, with the entire process automated.

First American is not only using the identity management function for resources on its own premise, but is tying in its use with Cisco's hosted IronPort service for e-mail security. The company recently opted to switch from owning an IronPort appliance to using the new Cisco service instead for some employees. Forefront identity Manager works fine in that scenario as well, Cosgrove said.

Forefront Identity Manager costs $15,000 plus about $18 for client-access license.

In other news announced at the RSA Conference, Microsoft said it has put in the public domain, and is making a toolkit available, for cryptographic elements that are part of its U-Prove software technology, which uses tokens to allow individuals to share select information about themselves to establish identity online. U-Prove is being tested in a pilot project at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany in applications such as smart cards used by students to buy e-books online, among other uses.

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