Can Project Concordia guide us out of the morass?

On Lost, one of my favorite shows on TV, the lead character is fond of saying “Live Together, Die Alone“. So much so that on one of the more recent episodes, one of the other characters told him “If you say that one more time, I’m gonna kill you” (I may be paraphrasing a bit).

That is probably how a lot of us in the identity community feel about the topic of interoperability. We have been talking about interoperability for so long, and have seen so many efforts come and go, that we may be feeling a bit jaded despite knowing how crucial it is to the survival of all that we have worked for. However, this year has seen some promising developments that again give us hope. Microsoft announcing the interoperability of CardSpace with OpenID at the RSA Conference was one such development. And more recently, I have come to learn of the Concordia Project, launched by members of the Liberty Alliance.

From their website you get a sense of what they are trying to accomplish:

“The Concordia project is a global initiative designed to drive interoperability across identity protocols in use today. It does this by soliciting and defining real-world use cases and requirements for the usage of multiple identity protocols together in various deployment scenarios, and encouraging and facilitating the creation of protocol solutions in the appropriate “homes” for those technologies.”

Reading more on their wiki, it sounds like a big requirements gathering exercise aimed at documenting real problems that cannot be solved unless protocol interoperability exists. These requirements can then be fed to the appropriate technical group for resolution. The hope is that by focusing on requirement gathering, they can gather good data independent of vendor or protocol bias. Going back to basics is often a good way of avoiding the issues that plagued earlier attempts. Eric Norlin also points out that it is significant that this is the first organization focused on protocol interoperability that Microsoft will be an active participant in.

To take advantage of next week’s Catalyst Conference, the Liberty Alliance is co-sponsoring the Concordia Workshop on June 26 at the San Francisco Hilton (where Catalyst will take place). The workshop will try to define and understand deployer needs with regards to interoperability and harmonization of different identity standards and protocols, through presentations by AOL, Boeing, GM, the Government of British Columbia and the US GSA. Sounds like an interesting opportunity to hear what some of the active consumers of identity technology are trying to do. I will definitely be checking it out to understand more and figure out how the project may be helpful to us as we define the ISF.

Attendance at the workshop is free; you can register and review the agenda at the workshop registration page.