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TechEX23 CAMP Speaker Spotlight: 4 Questions for Christopher Bongaarts



By John McCormack, Writer, InCommon

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Christopher Bongaarts, IAM architect, University of Minnesota, says that if your IAM infrastructure has been lingering in a state of limbo for a long time and has “dark, cobwebbed corners,” you need to come hear what he and co-presenter Kellen Murphy, identity architect & solution engineer, University of Virginia, have to say during their session, “IAM Archaeology,” at the 2023 Internet2 Technology Exchange (TechEX23) in Minneapolis September 18 – 22, 2023.

The duo will be offering relevant insights that can help IAM professionals retire legacy systems and bring their technology infrastructures up to speed. To get a better idea of what will be covered, we asked Christopher about the value of his upcoming educational session and of TechEX23 overall. (Register now.)

1. What do you hope attendees will learn from your session entitled IAM Archaeology?

The most important takeaway from my part of the talk would be to understand and document why things are the way they are, so you can make intelligent decisions about when to keep on doing them that way or try something else.  Those of us in the IAM business did not deliberately make things complicated for their own sake; they are that way because higher education is a complex identity environment with lots of what would be edge cases in a simpler environment.

More specifically, attendees will learn from University of Minnesota’s latest attempt to retire a 31-year-old identity system as well as University of Virginia’s journey of replacing their home-built group management solution with Grouper. We will offer practical knowledge on retiring old systems and facilitating future retirements from both organizational and technical perspectives.

2. Why is this an important topic to cover?

So others can avoid (some of) the self-inflicted pain we have been through.

3. What do you enjoy most about speaking on IAM topics?

What I love about higher ed is that we are free to collaborate with our competitors to make all of our institutions better. The camaraderie is exhilarating.

Christopher Bongaarts posing for a picture in an office cubicle.

Fun Facts About Christopher

Number of Years in Current Role: 2 years

Total Years at University of Minnesota: 29 years

Number of Times You Have Presented at TechEX: Around 4 or so in the identity track, and I’ve led a few topics at ACAMP.

Best IAM Advice You Ever Received (& from whom): My retired coworker Kevin built our prior identity system in such a way that he could reconstruct our lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) directory in a couple hours from the data in our system. This made it easy to test minor tweaks to the inbound feeds and LDAP provisioning – make your changes, regenerate the directory, and compare the before and after to verify the differences are as expected. We lost this functionality when we went to our current system (and it is unlikely that our new system will have this capability), which has made it difficult to verify the correctness of the system logic. The (implicit) advice then is to devise a simple, automatable testing strategy for your IAM services, and everyone will be happier.

4. What’s the #1 reason IAM professionals should come to TechEx/CAMP Week 2023?

To meet lots of other people who are facing or have faced the same problems you are and discuss solutions. You’ll likely find you are doing both better and worse than you thought – just like everyone else is.

CAMP Out at Technology Exchange! 

Don’t miss the opportunity to join us for CAMP Week at TechEX in Minnesota from September 18–22. 

Your peers spent months developing stellar sessions like Christopher’s that address the most critical issues in identity and access management. You don’t want to miss it!

Register Now