At the May OpenStack Summit in Vancouver an announcement was made that was significant yet subtle. As was announced, “a pioneering group of OpenStack cloud providers have committed to support the new federated identity feature available in the OpenStack Kilo release.” (Disclosure: I am Chairmain of the Board of the OpenStack Foundation.)
Identity federation is not new. Federated security standards have been in use for several years, most notably between Internet based services. As many know, the most visible user benefit is the single sign-on experience, giving users the ability to authenticate to an identity provider and then access providers without additional authentication. The service administrator benefits by enforcing policy and access in a service oriented nature, promoting privacy and security while reducing overhead and duplicity.
The May announcement is significant because it opens the “era of OpenStack Interoperability.” From this will emerge the strength of open source through a wide range of products and services.
However, the subtlety is that much more will come from this commitment through new technology building upon old technology that we take for granted. Federated identity brings us one step closer to the realization of a global network of clouds or global multi-cloud.
For years we have been highlighting the needs and benefits of hybrid clouds. Global multi-cloud takes us to a level beyond hybrid clouds.
To use a Start Trek metaphor, hybrid cloud is akin to extending shields. It is typically viewed as a public and private cloud combination where private cloud is extended to leverage a public cloud with design for use by a single organization. While the public and private cloud infrastructures are independent, hybrid cloud enables a domain within an entity to securely communicate, transfer data and access applications within the public and private cloud structure.
The advent of OpenStack federated identity opens the door to cloud constructs beyond hybrid clouds and single organization design. Leveraging federated security standards, today's clouds will evolve, creating developer diversity and expanding user choice. OpenStack is about choice and about being open. With these capabilities, developers can then leverage global multi-cloud, matching resources with application needs, geographical locality and price performance. Users will also be enabled to plug into a global network of OpenStack powered clouds with direct access to the services they need and want. The key being direct access through federation. This is an opportunity for users to work with clouds that will be built, supported and offered by a wide range of vendors with a diverse set of services.
In essence what may have appeared to be a simple feature support announcement will drive change to the very nature of cloud over the next five years. Change that will be exciting to witness.
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