This model could be used anywhere that security is an issue. For instance, if used in a health care organization, Accumulo can specify that only a patient and the patient's doctor can see the patient's data. The patient's specific doctor may change over time, but the role of the doctor, rather than the individual doctor, is specified in the database.
The NSA found that the data-centric approach "greatly simplifies application development," Fuchs said.
Because data today tends to be transformed and reused for different analysis applications, it makes sense for the database itself to keep track of who is allowed to see the data, rather than repeatedly implementing these rules in each application that uses this data.
"Since the applications in this model can push down the security model into the database and companion components, you don't have to solve that in the application," Fuchs said. As a result, "it is a lot cheaper to build that application," Fuchs said.
This is not the NSA's first foray into releasing open-source applications built on the role-based access model. In 2000, the agency released SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux), which allows administrators to create policies that dictate what actions each program on a computer can execute, based on the user's role. SELinux was subsequently rolled into the mainline Linux kernel.