Gartner Research

Decision Point for Public-Key Infrastructure

Published: 09 July 2012

ID: G00235111

Analyst(s): Robin Wilton, Ian Glazer


This Decision Point will guide you through the strategy definition process for public-key infrastructure (PKI) architecture and deployment, with the goal of ensuring that your PKI deployment is effective, successful and correctly aligned with the business risk assessment for each use case.

Table Of Contents

Decision Point

Decision Context

  • Related Decision Point Documents
  • Typical Requirements

Decision Factors

  • Risk Assessment
  • Scope
  • Types of PKI
  • Policy and Trust Models
  • PKI Instances
  • Public-Key-Based Functions
  • Sourcing, Placement, and Distribution
  • PKI Operations and Security
  • Key Management Considerations
    • Key Use
    • Strength of Algorithms and Keys
    • Key Separation by Purpose
    • Key Replacement
    • A Note Concerning Human Involvement
  • Certificate Status Checking

Future Developments

  • Responding to Publicized PKI Breaches
  • The Evolving Role of Security Token Services
  • Cryptographic Algorithms

Decision Tool

  • Risk Assessment
  • Scope
  • PKI Types
    • External-Facing PKI
    • Internal/Enterprise PKI
    • "Constrained" PKI
    • No PKI
  • Policy and Trust Models
    • Develop a Certificate Policy
    • Rely on the Outsource Provider to Develop Policies
    • Develop a Certificate Policy Scoped to This PKI Deployment
  • Trust Models
    • Use a Hierarchical PKI With a Common Trust Anchor
    • Configure the PKIs for an Explicit Trust Relationship
    • Bridge PKIs Via a Trusted Third-Party Hub
    • Cross-Certify PKIs
  • Registration
    • Registration of Human Users (Low/Medium Assurance)
    • Registering Human Users (High Assurance)
    • Registering Devices and Digital Media
  • PKI Instances
    • Combined vs. Multiple PKI Instances
  • Public-Key-Based Functions
    • Authentication/Authorization
  • PKI Source
    • Overarching Considerations
    • Outsource Server-Side Certificate Issue
    • Outsource to Access Specialist Skills
    • Join a Relevant Trust Consortium or Community of Interest
    • Operate an In-House PKI
  • PKI Operations and Security
  • Key Management Decision Factors
    • Separation of Key Pairs by Function
    • Managing Encryption Key Pairs
    • Managing Signature Key Pairs
    • Managing Authentication/Authorization Key Pairs
    • Long-Term Archival
    • Key Storage
  • Certificate Status Checking
    • Certificate Revocation List
    • Online Status Check (OCSP and SCVP)
    • Validation Authority
    • No Status Checking
    • Revocation of Root Certificates

Recommended Reading


©2021 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and its affiliates. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without Gartner’s prior written permission. It consists of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization, which should not be construed as statements of fact. While the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner research may address legal and financial issues, Gartner does not provide legal or investment advice and its research should not be construed or used as such. Your access and use of this publication are governed by Gartner’s Usage Policy. Gartner prides itself on its reputation for independence and objectivity. Its research is produced independently by its research organization without input or influence from any third party. For further information, see Guiding Principles on Independence and Objectivity.

Already have a Gartner Account?

Become a client

Learn how to access this content as a Gartner client.