I have a fairly long and storied history in the area of identity management. I was employee #1 at Ping Identity (back when all of its funding was 50k; disclosure: I still have equity in Ping), and one of the owners/organizers of Digital ID World (which, for a time, was the largest identity management-centric tech conference on the planet). In 2005, we sold DIDW to IDG, and as part of that, I stepped away from Ping to transition the DIDW property over. By 2006(ish), my head was out of the identity game. And then, in 2007, we started Defrag.

Since that time, identity has been an interesting side-thought for me, but not really front and center. Over the last few weeks all of that has changed. Let me explain why.

When I first started working on identity, we were living in the wake of Microsoft’s Passport program (youngins – go look it up). The Liberty Alliance was forming up. SAML was still a technical spec that no one had implemented. OAuth wasn’t a glimmer it its mother’s eye yet. In short, it was a wide-open, exciting world. But it was still a world of servers and meta-directories and on-premise installation of identity as an enabling piece of infrastructure.

One of my most memorable chats in the identity world happened with Jamie Lewis (then CEO of Burton Group – which was sold to Gartner) in 2004, at their Catalyst conference. Jamie and I were having one of those on-going conversations that seems to happen in elevators, while waiting in lines, or on escalators. It was about the idea that identity could be “as a Service” – much like Salesforce. I *think* I was the guy that first uttered “identity as a service” in that conversation (though it certainly doesn’t matter). In either case, Jamie was arguing that no one would ever trust their identity stores to anything off-premise, and I was arguing, “Why not? They trust their customer information to Salesforce.com.”

Fast forward to 2012 (has it taken THIS LONG?). Yesterday, Salesforce.com announced their Identity offering. And, for whatever reason, something clicked for me. I’ve spent the last six years digging into cloud computing, big data, mobile, APIs – and yet, here was my old friend identity resurfacing in the way that fascinated me back in 2004, from the company I used to make my argument. But it wasn’t really “identity as a service.” It’s more “identity as a part of platform as a service.”

Either way, identity just got really interesting again (cue the identity folks telling me it never wasn’t interesting). And I want to dig back into what this means at this year’s Defrag. As such, I’ve got Kim Cameron, the author of the seminal “Laws of Identity,” and Ian Glazer, Research Director and VP Identity at Gartner, coming to keynote about this new context for identity. I plan to add some more – and to get the interesting and relevant vendors there to help flesh this out.

All of which is to say that while Defrag is not an “identity show” (I’ve been there and done that), Defrag is going to explore what I think is a new frontier for identity. One that Jamie and I began arguing about back in 2004 (note to self: go ask Jamie to come)…