4 min

Computers, like people, are things. We all have a number of unique identifiers, a selection of defining characteristics and a range of parameters that describe who we are, where we exist, when we came to be and how we fill some kind of role in a system, service or society. Like us, machines have identities – and in this modern age of connected information – identities need management.

That’s all fine on paper, but (in the age of the Internet of Things) this is a very big sheet of paper with a massive number of devices to track with a seemingly countless number of machines to register, describe, track and manage. Add that reality to the fact that this whole tier of technology is now becoming cloud-native in the era of Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) and most people can imagine why building identity layers across the modern estate of machines (and let’s add in people too) might feel like a pretty Sisyphean thankless task.

Given that software application developers and the operations team that they will work alongside with (inside DevOps teams) will be the ones tasked with making machine identity management actually happen, what tools are available to them in this space?

Welcome to the machine

Styling itself as a dedicated machine identity management company, Venafi has this month tabled a new capability to help automate coding for developers. The organisation says that Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) is important in modern machine identity management, so the scope for AI to support developer and platform teams here is clear. With the number of machine identities present on networks set to top 500,000 by 2024, automated code recipes are argued to help solve complex problems and ensure safety.

The company is currently putting the finishing touches on a service it will make available on the Venafi DevEx platform, a place known as Dev Central. Named after the Greek god of wisdom, Venafi Athena is designed to automate machine identity operations for platform teams (i.e. IaC-centric systems operations enthusiasts) and ‘traditional’ developer teams (if such a thing even exists any more) in a language they’ll understand – which in this case are options to work in Python, Go or PowerShell.

Code recipes, yummy

Venafi Athena uses generative AI so that IT team users can automate machine identity operations by generating and suggesting complete code recipes. For example, a software developer might want a recipe for retiring and deleting expired certificates or importing certificates from a certificate authority. In this case (and in this recipe kitchen) generative AI will now create those for the developer.

“Modern enterprises require a fast, easy and integrated way to tackle these machine identity management problems,” said Shivajee Samdarshi, chief product officer at Venafi. “The power of generative AI and machine learning makes this possible today. Venafi Athena harnesses our own Software-as-a-service architecture and generative AI technology together to deliver new intelligence that enables security and platform teams to be successful in their machine identity management programmes.”

The company is also releasing a community edition of Athena which it describes as an ‘experimental laboratory’ that gives developers early access to generative AI capabilities and machine identity data for use in new feature development, machine learning and Large Language Model (LLM) development. It will launch with one open source code project and one open source dataset for machine learning.

Brought forward as a new underpinning AI technology for the Venafi Control Plane, Venafi Athena is said to combine the powers of machine learning, Large Language Models and the company’s data capabilities to make machine identity management easier and faster for IT teams across three core levels.

Security, Developers, Community

If we look at Venafi Athena for security teams, the volume of new machine identities and identity types have exploded with today’s increasingly cloud-native, multi-cloud world, meaning there’s a lot to manage here.

Security teams and machine identity professionals need an integrated way to reduce complexity and manage all of an organisation’s machine identities. Venafi’s new AI- and machine learning-powered technology claims to be able to help them make machine identity management decisions by identifying trends and providing suggestions through a chat interface across the Venafi Control Plane.

Focusing on Venafi Athena for developers, the company says that machine identity management requires the most integrated Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) and cloud-native capabilities. So then, Venafi Athena uses generative AI to automate machine identity operations by generating and suggesting complete code recipes. The AI engine is trained across Venafi’s integrated ecosystem, multiple development languages including Go, Python and PowerShell, as well as industry-standard orchestration solutions including the Red Hat certified Ansible Collection for Venafi and official HashiCorp Terraform Provider for Venafi.

Onward to Venafi Athena for the community. As an open source company in the machine identity management space, Venafi now offers this so-called experimental laboratory that it hopes will give developers early access to innovative generative AI capabilities and machine identity data for use in new feature development, machine learning, Large Language Model development etc. It includes a new project that redefines reporting and answers for machine identity management using generative AI and Venafi’s SaaS data capabilities.

This last element is available as of now with code examples and data with pre-identified features for machine learning on GitHub and Hugging Face.

The wider threads here appear to make fairly logical sense i.e. in a world where machines need more identity management and human users are interacting with machine identities from their own potentially multi-tier identity credentials, why not task the machines (the code engines) with the job in the first place? It appears that we have.

Free image use: Wikimedia Commons