Identity is the tipping point for the Cloud

I said it many times, but identity is more a pain to corporate CIOs than ownership of data. Managing hundreds of user accounts, and serving requests to these accounts are often a major challenge. Not only does the cloud build new barriers for control, but the lack of interoperability between on-premise user stores (Active Directory as an example) and remote user stores – is what will become the tipping point for success in the cloud.

But rest not more – ADFS 2.0 or let’s use the official Microsoft name, Windows Identity Foundation is now launched, and bridging the gap. ADFS/WIF is running identities as claims between your cloud software and your on-premise user database. The system is both a server, a client and a set of SDK/APIs for developers to encompass into their solution. Identity belongs on the premises of the company; not in the cloud!

So are we at the tipping point?
No. Reality is that programmers and developers are lacy (whether you are Microsoft, medium-sized or a small ISV). Before programmers have integrated WIF/ADFS we will still see a lot of applications having a hard time to reach enterprise market. But if you are an ISV or programmer, my lesson is simple: START INTEGRATING NOW. Many hosters does not understand the value – there is a substantial differentiation in the power of WIF/AFDS, a looking at Microsoft Online Services and Azure as the first applications to support WIF/ADFS, we can wonder why no one else follows.

But who supports it?
Actually Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5.0 will be one of the first applications together with Sharepoint 2010 to support ADFS 2.0 federation and WIF. Single sign-on here I come – finally 😉 Now we only need Active Directory as a service, as many SOHO companies does not benefit form an internal server; but benefit from a corporate domains type structure with group policies and domain membership. Who knows; maybe someone developers a small proxy layer to support this foundation.

Why Software+Services is superior to SaaS!

Defining everyday terms and sorting the difference between terms like S+S and SaaS, really is a battle of religions. But – however – Software+Services is a strategy that now iimplies to run every application through a browser (a rather dull experience in my mind), by embrace the marvel of using applications as an experience over many devices.

I would like to give a real example on why I am so found of the S+S business model. Just released (if you fell the bits and bytes – you would tell that they are still hot ;)), download the Wikipedia Explorer. Based on an Azure services, with and Windows Presentation Foundation client (WPF) – an really fun and exciting experience burst, when browsing through the libraries of Wikipedia. Go try for yourself – and realize the full potential of S+S.

Applications in the future will be connected as services

Software-as-a-service has been commodity for a long period. Microsoft among other vendors is now forming relations and strategies on how applications will act and perform in the near future. For a long period Microsoft has been pushing ISV developers to develop and implement their applications as SmartClient applications. SmartClient applications are actually just small content-frame-holder (as known from the web world), with different services connected to it.

The enablement of this “mashup” is a great and very new approach to an application. A big change to the business model of this is the actual change in the price of an application. Many developers and ISVs have been purchasing components and resource libraries to “bundle” and use in their applications. These components are sold though redistribution agreements and customer license for usage – and not the source code.

In the future world, this will exactly be the same model, just with services connected to the application. Billing and support will change rapidly offering per-usage billing, not the complete price. So in the future you can actually earn money – when you don’t format you documents in Word 😉

Another good example is the connected and business benefits of the model. Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 within a hosted model, several add-ons exists in the “could”. Among these, that Business Card reader webservice, which converts your image-business cards into readable contact information – directly imported to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 in the cloud. As you probably only want oné invoice, only need one support line, several considerations form around the model. But the general idea is now a reality.

Microsoft has released the Buffy Finder concept as an example, and launched Microsoft CSF Sandbox – a new version of the UDDI registry.

Update – 24.04.2008!

Microsoft Clearflow is another really good example on joining Microsoft Virtual Earth, Microsofts new traffic service and mobiltiy into one complete solution!