Going Cloud for the Enterprise is all about identity

Discussion topics on engaging enterprise companies are often a daily task for me these days. As the economy climate start to settle, many ISV’s face great opportunities and requests from larger organisations, and consuming cloud applications is on many CIO’s and CTO’s strategy plans the next couple of years.

Previously I have discussed a opinion of mine, that Identity is the tipping point for the cloud. I would like to connect this back to the CIOs, CTSs and IT business decision makers in modern companies. Selecting a vendor, provider or hosted that cannot help you establish single sign-on and enterprise identity life-cycle management (EILM) will not bring success to any cloud enablement. Also for ISV’s – if you do not offer, and I repeat, do not offer and identity solution to bridge internal identities with your application, your application will never be consumed in an enterprise state.

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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.

Identity Is not a Cloud Storage

I had the interesting opportunity to discuss enterprise adoption of Software+Services (SaaS red.) the other day – the 17.900 employee company actually had a real business policy for services oriented outsourcing. If you are an enterprise company, I really encourage you to do one – contact me for insight or key learning.

While following the discussions around the table, however disappointing it was to me – the common barrier for adopting service based computing, was the control and management of identity. It seems to me that this is becoming a major priority and concern for enterprise customer, as the SaaS service model suit their needs and buying model very fine, in these times of economic opportunities. While vendors like Salesforce, Google and Netsuite– often supported by third-party vendors like PingIdentity – have a great value proposition for SOHO and non-professional companies, enterprises with healthcare, professional services and manufacturing deal with a huge pain in information lifecycle management(ILM) and therefore Identity Management.

For these types of organizations identity BELONG to the corporate environment, and will not live as storage in the cloud. It is simply to unsecure, and too hard to implement though these added services often help SMBs envision the model.

The only model to suite enterprise opportunities is claims and forwarded federation. Microsoft solves this by implementation of the Geneva project & Sun OpenSSO Enterprise federation solution, but very few Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) adopt this model, as this is becoming very complicated and required major skills within the ISV organization. I see implementations like OpenID discuss and investigate these opportunities. On the other hand I asked the enterprise customer – what the value of single sign-on (SSO), where to them. And although the technology and business object in hand of SSO was known, they never did investigate the cost or actually the reduction of cost and therefore the valid value proposition for these time. In a later article we will focus on these cost optimizing parameters, but I would like to conclude as couple of valid take-aways:

If you are an ISV, consider your business model and consider implementing the right identity model or supporting for this. If you are going for the enterprise, you cannot rely on synchronized or old-fashion user-stores for credentials.

If you are an enterprise customer – get numbers to help ISV vendors, platform service providers (PSS’s) and service providers the right understanding for your environment. Make a business policy for SaaS adoption, and make identity a part of it.

Models are right – SaaS is in demand! Change your business and connect with new segments for high margins and profit.