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This week I had the opportunity to speak at the IT Architect Regional Conference in San Diego, on the subject of architecting enterprise SOA security. It is an interesting event, with speakers from Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, TIBCO, Fair Issac, and many other organizations. We even gave away a brand new XBox 360 and a Zune!
In a nutshell, my presentation was intended to point out the security aspects of planning an enterprise SOA, and a few topics that don't seem to be covered very often, and with an emphasis towards the future and navigating the organizational and cultural issues.
A brief overview -
Basically, some of the fundamental changes in SOA, such as:
Then of course, these changes also bring along many questions. Particularly many that represent conflicting approaches and each organization may come up with different solutions based on varying trade-offs.
In my opinion, trust-based architectures are much more flexible and scalable, and implementable by today's technology standards. And we couldn't completely eliminate trust in an impersonation/delegation model anyway. For example, a connected node/system has to "trust" service wrappers, agents, and/or local system components to verify user credentials against a centralized repository (such as Active Directory, LDAP, etc.) anyway.
On the other hand, having end-to-end security contexts is indeed conceptually more secure, as it can help better address the man-in-the-middle attacks, but in an SOA with a number of intermediaries between consumers and producers, there is still not an effective solution in managing public keys to support end-to-end message-level data encryption.
It's always interesting to try to take a peek at what may be possible in the future.
Finally, some overall talking points. One important and interesting point that was kind of new to many people is that security in SOA has to be planned and designed just like another process layer. If we overlook security and not plan it carefully, we may end up creating tightly coupled elements in the overall architecture, and impacting the agility we intended to create.
The most visible example of this is trying to implement message-level encryption for the sake of data integrity (message digests) and confidentiality. In order to establish an end-to-end security context (so that intermediaries, including the ESB, should not be able to decrypt sensitive data on transit to the destination), both the intended consumer and producer have to know exactly how to encrypt and decrypt data. And that depends on a previous exchange of public keys, which in this case had to occur directly between the consumer and producer endpoints. That in a way is tight coupling, as the consumer and producer endpoints have to know about each other, and are required to establish a one-to-one, peer-to-peer relationship in terms of public keys exchange used for encryption/decryption. To alleviate the situation, a centralized public key infrastructure can be implemented in an enterprise so that the management and decisions on public key usage can be externalized from endpoints and centralized. However, enterprise solutions in this area are still evolving, and we haven't yet seen effective solutions for doing similar things beyond the enterprise and on the Web.
Lastly, the most important point is that, just like SOA governance, security is also a huge factor of the organization and corporate culture. We have to take a process-first approach to the problem (instead of technology-first), then weave in the technology delivery part of it.
For those interested, the entire slide deck I used can be downloaded from my Windows Live SkyDrive. If you don't have Office 2007, you can download the free PowerPoint Viewer 2007.
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Link Listing - October 18, 2007
How to build a Fluent Interface in C# [Via: firstname.lastname@example.org (Troy DeMonbreun) ] SOA Security - Enterprise...
Co-worker and Microsoft Architect, David Chou went to the IT Architect Regional Conference 2007 event