The Age of Scroogle
by Deborah Volk on April 28th, 2010

I hear that the Age of Facebook is upon us. While I was busy tending to my identity and access tomatoes, the new dawn has been declared. Apparently right outside my window there be walking people whose identity has been sucked into a space-time deviation yet they're blissfully unaware of this. For those of you in the know (read: in the possession of a secret handshake), the Age of Aquarius is really where things have been happening for a while but I digress.

Astrology and social networking aside (wait, aren't they one and the same?) I think we're in the Age of Fast, Faster and Oops-Reboot-Button-Really-Works. The immediacy of content and the ease of access leads to different expectations versus those that existed merely 5-10 years ago. We want our movies streamed on demand with no network lag, our books in some digital iFormat, our identities to be portable yet private, our chicken wings to taste like 5-star French restuarant fare..

Who's to blame for this massive shift of the entitlement scale? I would like to blame the aliens but those folks at SETI are awuflly slow so I will blame Google. To be more exact, I will blame it on their unwavering belief that a simple search box can yield the answers to just about anything. Once they had consumers convinced, they started replicating the idea everywhere. Notably in GMail one can find emails by combining a few simple and easy to remember operators. For example, to find all messages sent to you from anyone at with an attachment, you could enter from:* has:attachment into the search field and voila, you're showered with text.

Now transport yourself back to the land of identity management. A typical IAM application is a bunch of tomatoes on top of a large database (LDAP is only a protocol, don't fool yourself). The content in the repository has a lot of value but only when it's appropriately harvested, extracted and made available in a cupcake format. If there ever was an enterprise application ripe for a pervasive search-as-an-interface-to-everything disruption, IAM is it.

Have you ever had to run a report in your identity or access management tool? Say, give me all users who have been provisioned to Active Directory in the last week. Given a reporting requirement of any sizeable complexity the implementation task would end up being either a nasty SQL query directly to the database or a mini-marathon with a reporting solution.

Enter Scroogle (pronounced SCROO-gul), a kinder, gentler and an entirely textual solution to the reporting problem. Scroogle is a search engine that would be embedded into an identity or access management product. Instead of fiddling with reporting knobs or trying to decide between left and right outer join (both are charities for circus acrobats if you ask me), one would use a very compact domain-specific language a la GMail operators to get results. For example, the Active Directory report above might look like has:AD status:Provisioned when:last week. Right now Scroogle is a figment of my imagination but I am sure IAM product vendors reading this blog will take notice and "borrow" my idea. All I ask in exchange is a six-figure royalty check paid in gold bullion.

P.S. Scroogle is actually a very real and useful ad-free Google proxy service

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