The CONNECT Interview: Klaas Wierenga
Building strength in Trust & Identity
Klaas Wierenga, creator of the eduroam service and well known in the global R&E community, has joined GÉANT as Chief Community Support Officer with a particular focus on the strategically important area of Trust & Identity. CONNECT caught up with him to learn more about his new post and plans.
Klaas, welcome to GÉANT and welcome back to the community. Many people will know of your extensive work on eduroam and federated identities but what brings you to GÉANT?
Thanks to you and many others in the community for the warm welcome, it has been overwhelming! I would argue that in reality I have never been really 'away'. In my 9 years at Cisco I have been involved in a number of EU projects with the community, was chair of TF-Mobility, chair of the TNC Programme Committee and Cisco's representative in the General Assembly, but I know what you mean. There are really a number of reasons. In the first place, I had been talking to Steve (Cotter, GÉANT CEO) for quite some time about the challenges at GÉANT after the merger, and I got increasingly enthusiastic about being part of and shaping the transformation of the organisation.
Secondly, over the past years my role at Cisco had changed to be less about innovation and more about sales. Since I am primarily motivated by the ability to apply new technologies, the choice was really not that hard.
You've spent time working with Cisco – do you feel that this experience of the commercial sector will be useful in helping drive the R&E community forward?
Yes, absolutely. In fact I have said on multiple occasions that I feel that most R&E staff would benefit immensely from working some years in a commercial setting. Not because everything is better in the commercial world, but because the feedback loop is much shorter. No matter how clever your idea is or how great your product, if it doesn't sell, it ends pretty quickly. I certainly hope to bring in a bit more of "business case" thinking, without sacrificing what the R&E community is good at: pushing the needle and do the right long term thing.
What do you see as the key opportunities and challenges within the community and the organisation?
Well, I believe that we as an R&E community have become the incumbents, with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In order not to be commoditised, we have to keep innovating and develop new business models, in order to address the (emerging) needs for our community.
If we don't, others will. If I look at the area where I have spent most of my working life, Trust & Identity, in R&E we have by far the most wide-spread use of federated identity, and it is very tempting to lean back and admire the view from the top. At the same time we see that the large commercial identity providers like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn go a different route, we need to be on top of those developments. For the organisation that means that we have to be much more, I hesitate to use the word, agile.
What will be your key focus over the next 12-18 months? What exciting things can we look forward to?
I am responsible for the Project Development Officer and Project Management Assistants teams and temporarily also the Events and Learning & Development teams. My immediate focus will be on Trust & Identity, because there we have to make some big steps to pull all the activities together in a coherent vision. As for exciting things: I've seen the keynote line-up for TNC, you will want to be there! REFEDS, eduroam, eduGAIN, and AARC are all producing great stuff, thanks to the GÉANT staff and the whole R&E community. I see it as my task to make sure that those and more exciting things keep happening.