IMA Technical Reference Architecture


As you develop reference architectures for use in your organizational Entity, there are several Best Practices that you should keep in mind.

Use the governance process#

An RA is a component of the Identity Management Architecture and is subject to the same governance process as any other IMA component. This implies that the RA is reviewed frequently and updated as necessary.


A reference architecture should be customized to fit the organization. As we'll see, what we're calling "the" reference architecture can actually be a collection of architectural recommendations. Each recommendation should be specific to problems that your organization is facing and be the basis for systems that you care about in your business.

Implement incrementally#

RAs frequently needed to be used in a piecemeal fashion. A good RA should be designed so that it can be scaled and customized to fit project needs. Recommendations for scaling and customization should be included in the RA documentation to guide system architects and developers in its application.

Prove in a pilot#

Ideally, RAs are tested in a pilot scenario and retested whenever components or practices are changed. The pilot implementation should be used to test new components or practices before they are broadly recommended. Small organizations may not have the capacity to do this in a formal way and may need to rely on vendor studies, third-party analysis, or small pilot programs to verify technology combinations. Larger organizations may be able to develop formal reference architecture validity programs as part of their IT research arm or the CIO's office.


RAs for systems typically contain specific recommendations about hardware and software components. The interoperability framework says what's allowed, but the RA says what's recommended and which combinations work well together in the enterprise system. Innovative project teams may choose to swap out some of the recommended software or hardware choices for compatible choices. There should be a process in place for feeding this valuable experimental data back into the reference architecture so that projects can benefit from the experience of other projects.

Components of a Reference Architecture#

A reference architecture has three primary pieces.
  • Technical Positions Statements that guide system architects in making technical decisions.
  • An enterprise-wide consolidated infrastructure blueprint (CIB) that gives a blueprint for the overall Digital Identity infrastructure and shows how various enterprise components are hooked together.
  • Individual reference architectures for specific types of systems.

More Information#

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