I had recently late last year attended the Gartner Identity & Access Management Summit.  It’s been a while this post has been in the draft mode.  Finally I am getting around in finishing  it.

In conversations with clients, prospects and vendors about IAM solutions, Gartner reports and magic quadrants often come up.  The reports are cited and recited by all vendors proving respective strength. I have had a chance to read some of the reports and always wondered who are the analysts who pass judgment with such authority on subject matters. No matter how refined a study, before I trust a judgment I need to know who the judge is, who are the people behind it, what are their qualifications and motives. So when I saw this opportunity to have a first hand experience was listening and interacting with the analyst I jumped at it.

Going into the conference I wondered. What is the methodology of their research? What is the depth of their knowledge when they make a statement and make recommendations? How much is all this punditry qualified. How are they influenced by corporate sponsors and contracts.? How to read the magic quadrant? Are there any other dimensions to the quadrant ? What are the sources of the information for the analyses?

slide image of keynote

A of the slide from Earl Perkins' Keynote

I stepped into the keynote with an open mind. The first impression was very good.  Earl Perkins gave a very good insight on to the state of the IAM  and how it has matured over the years. It was a fresh light on the subject. A holistic approach of looking at IAM. Earl was impressive, authoritative his talk was very informative. If nothing else one should listen to the keynote. So it seemed that the analysts do know their subject matter at a high level.

I attended a number of sessions here is My Agenda for the event. One of the most popular session was Best Practices for Vendor Selection – The Gartner Magic Quadrant. The analyst explained additions, removals and changes from last year’s quadrants. They downplayed using this tool as the primary means of selecting a vendor. As one analyst summed up –  “Suffice to say, that choosing the vendor in any particular corner of the magic quadrant, doesn’t necessarily mean the best or the worst possible option for your enterprise”. The magic quadrant is not as holy as it is made up to be. It was good that the analysts did not present it otherwise.

During my conversations with analysts I noticed most of them have command on the subject matter they are knowledgeable about marketplace, about which vendor has what set of features . There was hardly any talk of open source or open standards. I guess there isn’t money in sponsorships there. The analysts were very proficient in tuning the ideas for upper management.

Having a background in engineering, found the language, the presentations, the conversations at a very high level. Very few analysts actually implement the products they review. It was easy to stump them about nuances of vendors and products. Admittedly

a slide from the event

A chart from the event

most of their knowledge was based on informations from vendors themselves, discussions with clients. They will have a fabulous answer when you ask them “How do I create and present the use case of IAM to upper management ?” but you will left wanting for more if you ask “Is reverse proxy based Web Access Management easier to implement than agent based Access Management”. There was a general lack of attention to details and more attention to how well a vendor markets their product. What I understood was a vendor who spends more money on sales will score relatively higher points in Gartner Books.

Gartner reports, charts, quadrants are academic research papers wannabe, but with generalizations, and somewhat lack of depth. However the value of the research should not be completely discounted. They do provide to a level of understanding to non technical and management (read pointy haired bosses) people who otherwise will get completely lost in details.

Overall the event was fruitful for me. I came out admiring the analysts for what and how they presented. It broadened my knowledge and got a new perspective of looking at technology.

I have subscription to the Gartner On Demand portal to replay the keynotes, session etc. And thanks to them they allow sharing of the content. So if you are interested in viewing the recoded sessions and keynotes drop me an email at arun dot binaykia at sathtech dot com and I will send the credentials to you.

  • Earl Perkins