What Is an Identity Fabric? (The Next Evolution of IAM?)

Robert MacDonald

“Identity fabric” isn’t a solution in and of itself, but rather represents a comprehensive and holistic approach to managing digital identities and security. This approach prioritizes flexible, scalable, and adaptable identity management schemes that allow administrators to manage various requirements across an entire digital ecosystem.

By adopting an identity fabric approach, organizations can create an Identity and Access Management (IAM) framework that is flexible enough to adapt to emerging technologies, scalable to handle increasing volumes of identities, and robust enough to provide the security necessary for modern digital environments.

This is particularly crucial in the era of digital transformation, where cloud services, mobile devices, IoT devices, and new regulations are constantly changing the IAM landscape.

The concept of an identity fabric is designed to cover all aspects of Identity and Access Management, including:

  • Identity Lifecycle Management: Lifecycle management includes the creation, management, and removal of identities for individuals, systems, and services in an organization–a critical component of authentication- and access-based security.
  • Authentication: The backbone of perimeter security, authentication focuses on using the identities of users, devices, systems, and services to control system access. This could range from simple username-password authentication to more complex multi-factor authentication.
  • Authorization: The counterpart to authentication standards, authorization determines who can access system resources based on privileges, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Governance: Governance covers identity management’s policies, processes, and oversight to ensure compliance with internal and external requirements.
  • Federation: Federated identity management handles system identities across different infrastructures, platforms, or organizations. This includes Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities.
  • Privacy and Consent Management: Managing personal data in compliance with regulations like GDPR, CCPA, and others, including gathering and managing user consent for data processing.

The ‘fabric’ analogy implies a level of abstraction that can unify disparate IAM tools and systems under one architecture.

What Are the Technologies Included in an Identity Fabric System?

An identity fabric solution represents a holistic approach to managing digital identities. Hence it typically employs a range of technologies and protocols, many associated with IAM and cybersecurity. Here are some of the key technologies commonly used in an identity fabric solution:

  • Identity Protocols: Protocols like Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect, and WS-Federation are often used to standardize the communication of identity and authorization data between different systems and services.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Technologies that support MFA, including hardware tokens, SMS-based verification, biometric authentication, etc., are a crucial part of most identity fabric solutions to enhance security.
  • Single Sign-On (SSO): SSO technologies enable users to authenticate once and gain access to multiple systems and services without needing to authenticate separately for each one.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): APIs are crucial for enabling interoperability between different systems and services, allowing them to exchange identity data and other information.
  • Directory Services: Technologies like LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Active Directory provide repositories for storing user and group information, which can be used as part of an identity fabric solution.
  • Risk-based Authentication: Technologies that analyze various risk factors (e.g., user behavior, device information, location, etc.) to dynamically adjust authentication requirements.
  • Identity Governance and Administration (IGA): IGA technologies provide the ability to manage digital identities, access permissions, and security entitlements comprehensively.
  • Privileged Access Management (PAM): PAM technologies help manage and secure access to critical systems and data by privileged users (such as administrators).
  • Consent and Privacy Management: Technologies for managing user consent and personal data in compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
  • Federation Technologies: Technologies that enable the sharing of identity information across different trust domains.

Remember, the specific mix of technologies used in an identity fabric solution can depend on various factors, including the organization’s particular requirements, existing IT infrastructure, compliance requirements, and more.

What Problems Does Identity Fabric Solve?

The concept of identity fabric is designed to solve several challenges modern organizations face with Identity and Access Management. These problems stem from increasingly complex IT environments characterized by the growing number of users (both inside and outside the organization), the proliferation of devices, the use of cloud and hybrid environments, and ever-evolving compliance and security requirements.

Some problems that identity fabric addresses include:

  • Complexity: Modern organizations often have to manage many different IAM tools and systems, each with their features, interfaces, and capabilities. An identity fabric can provide a unified, abstracted layer that simplifies the management of these diverse systems.
  • Scalability: As organizations grow and change, they need IAM systems that can scale to accommodate more users, more devices, more applications, and more data. An identity fabric is designed to be scalable, capable of growing and adapting with the organization.
  • Fragmented User Experiences: In the absence of a unified IAM strategy, users (employees, customers, partners) may have disjointed experiences when it comes to authentication, with varying requirements across different services. Identity fabric provides a seamless and consistent user experience across multiple applications and services.
  • Security: Security is a crucial concern for IAM, with a need to protect against threats like identity theft, unauthorized access, and data breaches. An identity fabric can enhance security by enabling multi-factor authentication, risk-based authentication, anomaly detection, and more across the entire digital ecosystem.
  • Compliance: Compliance with various data protection and privacy regulations is another significant challenge. An identity fabric can help manage compliance by providing features like consent management, access reviews, and auditing capabilities.
  • Interoperability: With diverse systems (on-premises applications, cloud services, mobile apps, IoT devices, etc.), ensuring they can communicate and interact effectively is a significant challenge. By its very design, identity fabric supports interoperability between these various systems.
  • Future-Proofing: The IT landscape is continually changing, with new technologies, standards, and threats always emerging. An identity fabric can help “future-proof” an organization’s IAM strategy by providing a flexible, adaptable framework that can evolve.

By addressing these challenges, an identity fabric can help organizations manage their identities more effectively, enhancing security, improving user experience, and driving operational efficiency.

What Is the Relationship Between Identity Fabric and Identity Orchestration?

The idea of an identity fabric refers to a comprehensive, flexible, and adaptable framework for managing digital identities across an organization’s entire IT environment, encompassing all aspects of IAM like authentication, authorization, identity lifecycle management, governance, privacy and consent management, and federation.

Identity fabric, being the combination of processes and technologies used to control identity management across platforms, will almost inevitably feed into the process of orchestrating identity management. In some ways, orchestration is the control of identity management–the existence of a control system that manages policies, procedures, and large-scale schemas that an organization must implement for their particular identity management needs.

Fabric, like the metaphor suggests, would be the “material” on which that orchestration effort is built from. The tools and technologies in that fabric (federated identity or SSO, authentication and authorization systems, decentralized identity management systems, compliant identity verification or liveness proofing, etc.) are how orchestration is managed.

Most importantly, the fabric will help define how orchestration efforts automate these processes. Automation is a critical aspect of identity orchestration, and as such the underlying technologies in the identity fabric (which may even include advanced systems like machine learning and AI) will help the effectiveness of broader orchestration systems.

How Does Identity Fabric Relate to Zero-Trust Architecture?

Identity fabric solutions and zero trust are concepts that play a significant role in modern cybersecurity strategies. They are different but complementary, and their relationship is often essential in ensuring comprehensive security for organizations.

Zero trust architecture is a security concept centered on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside their perimeters and instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to their systems before granting access. This means that every user, device, and network flow is authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated before being granted the minimum necessary access.

On the other hand, an identity fabric solution is a holistic and integrated approach to IAM that covers all aspects, including but not limited to authentication, authorization, identity lifecycle management, governance, and privacy. Identity fabric is the infrastructure that handles the diverse identity and access needs across an entire digital ecosystem.

The principles of zero trust heavily rely on robust identity verification and management – the user’s or device’s identity must be authenticated, and their access must be appropriately authorized based on least privilege access principles. This is where an identity fabric solution comes in. An identity fabric solution essentially forms the backbone of a zero trust architecture by providing a comprehensive framework for managing digital identities.

In a zero trust architecture, an identity fabric solution could provide essential functionality, such as:

  • Continuous Authentication: Authenticating users and devices whenever they attempt to access resources, regardless of their location or network.
  • Least Privilege Access: Assigning users and devices the minimum levels of access they need to perform their functions.
  • Micro-Segmentation: Segmenting the network to limit lateral movement.
  • Real-time Adaptive Policies: Dynamically adjusting access policies based on real-time risk assessment.

Thus, identity fabric and zero trust architecture are intimately connected. While the identity fabric provides the mechanisms for managing identities and access, zero trust utilizes these mechanisms to ensure that each access request is properly authenticated and authorized, thus enhancing an organization’s overall security posture.

Strong Identity Management, Strong Identity Fabric, with 1Kosmos BlockID

Any conception of an identity fabric system will include a focus on identity management and strong authentication. Multi-factor authentication, biometrics, decentralized management… all of these are part and parcel of any successful identity fabric.

With 1Kosmos, you can leverage the following features:

  • Identity-Based Authentication: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and identity verification.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API and SDK.
  • Identity Proofing: BlockID verifies identity anywhere, anytime and on any device with over 99% accuracy.
  • Privacy by Design: Embedding privacy into the design of our ecosystem is a core principle of 1Kosmos. We protect personally identifiable information in a distributed identity architecture and the encrypted data is only accessible by the user.
  • Private and Permissioned Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private and permissioned blockchain and encrypts digital identities and is only accessible by the user. The distributed properties ensure that there are no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target.

Interoperability: BlockID can readily integrate with existing infrastructure through its 50+ out of the box integrations or via API/SDK.

SIM Binding: The BlockID application uses SMS verification, identity proofing, and SIM card authentication to create solid, robust, and secure device authentication from any employee’s phone.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about how BlockID can support real security and help support identity fabric systems. And to learn more, contact us to learn about how we can help you with that identity fabric.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.