Social OX – changing the way we work with social networks

18.08.2009 by Martin Kuppinger

Open-Xchange, a provider of open source messaging and groupware, has announced its concept of Social OX, OX standing for Open Xchange and the concept of a “personal information hub”. The idea is to provide an approach where someone can maintain its “contacts” centrally and exchange that information with social networks like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Xing, FaceBook, MySpace, and others. The idea is to consolidate, manage, and re-use personal and social network data.

The concept supports publishing data to others and consuming shared data. In effect, that information will become exchangeable, in contrast to today’s lock-in approach in most social networks. Data can be tagged and so on, allowing to use different data for different contexts. That even will allow companies to integrate (respecting the data protection/privacy laws) available contact aggregated from individual contacts of employees, as one of many use cases.

Currently, HTTP and XML are the underlying concepts, allowing an easy adoption. But Open-Xchange considers approaches like information cards as well for the future. The focus is on a common semantics and standardized interfaces to exchange that information. And Open-Xchange claims that several large social network providers are starting to support that concept.

Social OX is an interesting threat for providers of social networks, given that it opens them up. But will it also affect their business models? Currently, the lock-in is a part of the concepts. With approaches like Social OX (and the approach for exchanging social network information might be used by other vendors as well) that lock-in disappears, allowing to use platforms like Open-Xchange to read the data out and publish it to another social network. That will allow a faster and more easy switch between social networks.

However, it is unlikely that leading social networks will disappear. They benefit from the number of users and they especially benefit from their other services around the personal information which could be exchanged using Social OX. However, it will become easier for new social networks (and other system relying on that information) to enter the market. Today, the value of new social network approaches is frequently low because there are too few users. That will become easier, even with the need of others to subscribe and import their data as well.

Social OX has the potential to influence the way we work with social network data and personal information, with Open-Xchange (and maybe other vendors) acting as personal information hub. It might as well allow new business models (think about personalization). And it might lead to a world with more successful social networks than today, due to a lower market entry for newcomers. But as long as the market leaders focus on the added values for the network members and have a valid business model (which isn’t necessarily true for all of them today), Social OX will not lead to their replacement. However, they will have to learn to exist without the lock-in of social network information of their customers.


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Is PAM (or PIM or PUM) moving into Provisioning?

11.08.2009 by Martin Kuppinger

These days I have been talking with Siemens on enhancements for their DirX Identity product, a provisioning tool (and, by the way, a pretty good one). Amongst the new features is some support for Privileged Account Management (PAM). That’s interesting. I’ve blogged some time ago about the possibility of provisioning vendors starting to acquire PAM vendors and adding these capabilities to their provisioning products.

Siemens didn’t acquire but implemented some own technology. They mainly focus on providing one-time passwords for the use of privileged accounts and re-setting these passwords after use. This is combined with strong authentication, using smartcards. In fact it is sort of a mix between product (resetting passwords and all that stuff) and project (adding strong authentication using other products). But finally they became a pioneer in integrating PAM with provisioning.

There is no doubt that the leading PAM suites like the ones provided by Cyber-Ark or Lieberman Software provide a much broader feature set. However, integrating that with provisioning tools, identity lifecycles, and existing (self) service interfaces is a valid approach. I expect other vendors to follow, adding PAM support as well. However, the specialists will provide a more sophisticated solution at least for a pretty long period of time (unless they become acquired…).

But what Siemens has done proves my thesis on PAM moving into provisioning, servicing the specific requirements of customers. And it proves that PAM is moving from a niche topic towards a mainstream technology in the broader IAM market.

Regarding the term PAM (or PIM or PUM): I prefer Privileged Account Management because it is about accounts which are associated to a person and their digital identity. The user is sometimes associated with an account, sometimes more understood as a construct in between, e.g. a user-ID with some accounts associated and sometimes the situation that some person with one digital identity could have multiple user-IDs. For what is managed, PAM seems to be the most appropriate term, from my point of view.


Licensing for the cloud – the Skype case

03.08.2009 by Martin Kuppinger

These days, there were several articles in different media stating that eBay might discard its Skype service. The reason is that they haven’t acquired the underlying P2P core technology. This is still owned by Joltid. And Joltid plans to terminate that license agreement. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to guess that the real reason behind that situation is about money…

However, eBay definitely is in a difficult situation. They might find a deal with Joltid. They might discard the Skype service with its 16 million users – which probably won’t be that lucky about. They might develop an own P2P technology. Or they might replace the P2P technology. Given the limited time eBay has to solve the problem they the most likely options are that eBay either will find a new agreement with Joltid or will have to acquire another P2P technology. There are several P2P providers out there, some supporting phone capabilities, like Collanos Phone. There are Open Source projects like Gizmo. Thus there are some options. It will require some intense technical due diligence for eBay to choose the technology which allows to continue the Skype service with somewhat equal features and not too much of disruption for existing users. But there are solutions out there.

It will be interesting to observe which option eBay chooses. Given that I’m a Skype user, I’m really interested in. I’m as well interested from a perspective of an analyst for the Cloud Computing market, because the situation eBay is in shows the inherent complexity of Cloud Computing with many different relying parties. Think about a situation where, just as an example, a database isn’t provided any more by the cloud computing platform it has been run on before, because the company providing the platform has terminated the agreement with the database vendor. That would be somewhat the same story. Thus, think about these dependencies and look at the potential problems…


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