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Thursday, April 25, 2024

ESSO – Close Enough for Practical Purposes

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
5:00 am

In his recent Identity Management


Dave Kearns
commented on a panel discussion he hosted at
Digital ID World with five Enterprise Single Sign On (ESSO) vendor dignitaries. Oops! Sun wasn’t represented.

The participants agreed that by “rolling [ESSO] out quickly, you not only show a fast ROI but you also make the ESSO project available as a building block for other things – such as regulatory compliance.”

Trying to get the participants to admit that full ESSO is still a way off, Dave stated, “the goal of having a “single” sign-on reminded me of

Zeno’s Paradox
. That’s the one that can be summed up as follows:

“Suppose I want to walk across the room to the door. First, of course, I must walk halfway to the door. Next I must walk half the remaining distance to the door. Then I must further walk half the remaining distance to the door. I’m still not at the door, though, so I walk half the remaining distance. But this will go on forever and I will never reach the door.”

Apparently, all of the participants thought they were already going through the door. Yet, the customers I talk to see the benefits and want to proceed, but see the ESSO implementation process as a long, potententially rocky road.

To me, the issue is like the old mathemetician/engineer joke:

A mathematician and an engineer were both standing 20 feet away from this pretty girl when they were asked by another Zeno guy that if they could only walk half the distance to the girl each time what would they do?
The mathematician exclaimed “Zeno, I will stand right here because I can conclusively prove that I’ll never reach her”, whereas the engineer said, “I agree, but I can get close enough for practical purposes.”

I guess my engineering roots are showing. There is no paradox to me. If the object of my desire is compelling enough, I am will be willing to live with “Close Enough for Practical Purposes” rather than perfection.

Such is the case with ESSO. Some of our customers wisely call their ESSO projects “Simplified Sign On,” rather than “Single Sign On,” because they realize that even partial ESSO will pay large business dividends. So, rather than getting all mathematical and “Zeno”-phobic, they forge ahead, laying foundations for the future while reaping rewards as they go.

Others fret and stew as they wait for utopia to appear. They may never be able to kiss the pretty girl.



2 Responses to “ESSO – Close Enough for Practical Purposes”

    Nicely put. I believe that “close enough for practical purposes” has also been characterized as “good enough” with respect to software such as Windows, MS Office, and even Linux…

    Comment by Drew Schlussel on May 31, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for your comments.

    Comment by Mark Dixon on May 31, 2005 at 7:16 pm

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