Sunday, April 20, 2008

Assurance Architecture

If an SP is to grant access to some valuable resource based on a federated identity, it will want some convincing that the relevant IDP is kosher (in the vernacular, not dietary, sense). The SP will want to be courted (in the wooed, not legal, sense) by the IDP. The IDP's courtship will consist of 'opening the kimono' with respect to its identity management infrastructure and processes in order to convince the SP. The more valuable the resource, the more 'leg' the SP will want to see. (can you count how many metaphors the above used?)

The bower bird gets its name from the thatched structure (bower) that the male builds in order to court the ladies. The bower is constructed in the undergrowth from twigs and coarse grass, and may be as much as 3 feet across. Each species builds its own shape of bower (e.g. a mat, a tower, or an archway) and prefers a different decorating scheme. A few surround their bowers with carefully planted lawns of moss. Others strew blue objects all around the structure in order to cultivate the right romantic mood.

Compare the following bower facts to identity assurance for federated identity partners:

- Bower birds are naturally territorial. Neighbouring birds may pilfer decorations from each other and even attempt to trash nearby bowers.

- One theory is that bowers, by providing a sort of a fence separating them from the male, allow the females to feel sufficiently comfortable to approach - the bower allows females to get close enough to get a good look without feeling threatened.

- The birds are polygynous and a male may mate with many females.

- Bowers are an elusive species and difficult to photograph. The actual mating act is rarely witnessed.

- Researchers have noticed a link between the showiness of a bower bird's plumage and the intricacy of its bower: drab species often build large monstrosities, while the bright plumed species may only use leaves to decorate.

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