Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dispelling Urban Legends...

I wonder if this is how urban legends get started. Self claimed "thought leader" James McGovern has been repeatedly making statements over the past few weeks about the Liberty Alliance that show a lack of understanding in the structure and operation of the alliance.

I've been resisting responding to them because it feels like this is information he should be gathering himself if he really was a "thought leader" and so I didn't want to do his job for him (although I have succumbed to several of his "please answer this for me" blog comments that were totally unrelated to the articles upon which he was commenting).

However, since he seems to want to go on and on about it, I thought it best to educate him in the actual truth related to his statements and perhaps get him to actually look at the facts rather than making these mis-statements if not complete untruths:

At some level, I could attempt to do this work by joining a standards body such as the Liberty Alliance but unless they are willing to change their model for membership to become more enterprise friendly then this too will fail.

The most interesting part of that statement is that Liberty is frequently accused of being in bed with the enterprise only and not paying attention to non-enterprise use cases. In any case, the only thing I can think he might be referring to is the membership fees which range from $2500 on the low end to $50,000 on the high end ($150,000 if you want to be a member of the management board) (depending upon the size of the company).

These fees are inline with the fees charged by many other standards alliances and just cover the operational costs for the alliance. I'm not sure what James would want them to do as they aren't like the US Government and so can't run at a deficit year-in year out.

That aside, the membership fee is really a small part of the overall cost for a member. The real cost of participating in the alliance is the participation itself, not the fees. The salary(ies) and expenses of the employees that participate and drive the solutions is a much higher cost than the membership fees for most organizations. I don't see how this could be any different for an enterprise.

Spending lots of money in enterprises is easy. The key though is that spending of money on external entities usually comes in the form of statements of work, deliverables, etc. Simply being allowed to participate in a conversation will not allow the masses of enterprises to spend money to become a member.

Paying the membership fees does not enable the member to "simply being allowed to participate in a conversation." Each member has a say and a vote in the definition of the requirements for any current and future work done by the alliance. Each member has a say and a vote in the definition of the specifications to meet those requirements. In addition, the members that actively participate in any given issue are typically a subset of the overall membership and so, the participating member (enterprise or other) typically have an even louder voice/vote than you see in the overall numbers.

Is it possible for a NON-Sun employee to tell the world why anyone would want to join Liberty Alliance if your primary business model isn't technology?

I'm not now, nor have I ever been, a Sun employee... I've participated in Liberty representing a company who's primary output was *not* technology (AOL) and I've participated in Liberty representing a technology company (Intel). The answer is: By joining you get to ensure that your use cases are included in the set of use cases from which the requirements are built and you get to ensure that the solutions defined to meet those requirements meet your needs as well.

It seems as if those whose primary business model isn't technology is outnumbered by at least twenty to one.

Last week James claimed it was "ten to one", now it's "twenty to one"... Hmm... Let's look at the actual figures. Liberty currently has 13 Management board members listed on their membership web page. Of the 13, 5 (AOL, Fidelity, FranceTelecom, NTT and GM) are companies that are users of identity technology rather than sellers of it. The same page lists 39 sponsor members of which I think 13 are similarly users of identity technology. In addition it seems that the majority of the Associate & Affiliate members are also in the same class.

Clearly this is not 20 to 1, nor 10 to 1... It's not even 5 to one.

In addition, this ratio is lower in the Liberty Alliance than it probably is in most other standards alliances.

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1 comment:

Neil Macehiter said...

Similar concerns were raised in comments to my blog post
regarding Liberty 2.0 workshop and the participation of non-vendors.