Gartner Research

User Authorization

Published: 13 March 2007

ID: G00203272

Analyst(s): Mike Neuenschwander, Gerry Gebel


As organizations work to secure their online resources, architects must establish a strategy for authorization policy. In this update to the Burton Group Reference Architecture, architects can find a wealth of information on how to undertake this task. This Technical Position covers administration of authorization policy, the definitions of policy domains and their interrelationships, and how to effect policy statements on the network.

Table Of Contents

Decision Point

Typical Requirements

  • Policy-Based Security
  • Delineating Policy Domains
  • Establishing Policy Governance
  • Relationship of Authorization Policy to Identity
  • Scaling Policy Management
    • Scoping the Subject
    • Identifying Objects
    • Specifying Actions
    • System as Subject
    • Defining Constraints
  • Achieving Finer-Grained Authorization
  • Policy Configuration Management
  • Decision Points
    • Deciding What to Decide
  • Enforcement Points
  • Monitoring and Auditing
  • Risk Levels
    • Low Risk
    • Medium Risk
    • High Risk


  • Standards and Policy Languages
    • SAML
    • XACML
    • Service Provisioning Markup Language (SPML)
  • Authorization Models
    • Basic Authorization
    • Coarse-Grained Authorization
    • Fine-Grained Authorization
    • Custom Authorization
  • Topology Alternatives
    • Centralized Authorization Topology
    • Distributed Resource Managers
    • Decentralized Authorization Topology
    • Hybrids

Future Developments

  • Portable Access Policies
  • Languages
    • WS-Policy
    • XrML
    • XACML
  • Legal Frameworks
  • Emergence of Fine-Grained Authorization as a Market Segment

Evaluation Criteria

Statement & Basis for Position

  • Centralized vs. Distributed Policy Domain Model Position
    • Deploy a centralized policy domain model.
    • Implement a distributed policy domain model.
  • Policy Management Authority Position
    • Authorization Model Position
    • Policy Representation Position
    • Policy Approval Position
    • Policy Versioning Control and Audit Trail Position
  • Policy Decision Point Position
    • PDP Topology Position
    • Controlling PDPs Position
    • Federating PDPs Position
    • Proximity to Enforcement Points Position
    • Location of PDP Input Data Position
  • Policy Enforcement Point Topology Position
    • Deploy centralized PEPs only at each access server.
    • Distribute access policy enforcement to each service/resource host system.

Relationship to Other Components

Revision History

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