Provisioning software has become practical and cost effective, but enterprises must choose vendors carefully, according to a new study from analyst firm Burton Group.
Provisioning refers to the automation of all the steps required to set up, change and revoke user access to systems in a network and is part of an overall plan for architecture and identity management.
The study, entitled "Provisioning: Many Product Choices for Enterprises," says the provisioning market is currently saturated with so many products that it's difficult to properly evaluate them all. Saturation occurred despite some consolidation in the space as provisioning vendors such as Waveset and Business Layers were acquired by larger companies.
The study said another factor that helped legitimize provisioning technology during the past year was the release of the Services Provisioning Markup Language (SPML). SPML is the XML-based language for exchanging and administering access across different platforms. The specification is designed to create interoperability between different provisioning systems.
The Burton Group concluded that companies interested in provisioning should first gain a solid understanding of their infrastructure, system requirements and long-term goals in order to find a vendor that matches their needs.
When seeking out and deploying provisioning tools, "project management skills are key," said Gerry Gebel, an analyst with Burton Group. "That means you want to define the scope of what you're trying to accomplish very clearly, set attainable goals and then go about attacking the easy problems first."
Gebel said that planning is the most important part of a provisioning deployment project because "you're hitting many different facets of the enterprise, both on the technical side as well as on the business process side."
On the technical side, Gebel said, you're trying to automate things that previously were manually conducted. On the business process side, you're changing the way people request access to resources or request new accounts.
Vinu Jacob, a senior messaging engineer for New York-based law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, said he has looked extensively into provisioning products. He said his firm just recently rolled out Active Directory primarily so it can be used in conjunction with provisioning software. "We're having a hard time finding the right solutions," he said.
"Active Directory allows you to use group policies to provision accounts, but it's not the ideal way of doing it," Jacob added. "There are third-party tools that do it way better."