SaaS, the Cloud and the ‘Big Bang’

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Here at Conformity we recently wrapped up some interesting market research on the topic of adoption of SaaS and cloud-based services and the management challenges it is creating for organizations and their IT departments in particular.  Conducted in conjunction with a leading analyst firm,  we spoke with IT and business executives at nearly 50 midsize and large enterprises that were adopters of multiple SaaS applications, and who were planning on extending their adoption of the model.  We’ve summarized our findings in a new whitepaper titled SaaS, the Cloud and the Big Bang.

The results?

In organizations we spoke with, business users drove the initial wave of SaaS adoption and largely took on the associated management and support responsibilities.   In a pattern similar to what happened with distributed computing 15-20 years earlier, as SaaS adoption hit ‘critical mass’ in these organizations (particularly those with compliance exposure),  IT has been brought in to extend existing management processes, controls and tools to SaaS and cloud-based resources.

The problem?  SaaS and cloud-based services are fundamentally exploding the traditional IT management model, due to:

  • Decentralization of management – in ‘traditional’ management environments,  IT has near complete responsibility and accountability for governance and management of technology resources.  The focus on autonomous IT governance and managmeent has increased due to increasing regulatory compliance requirements (SOX, GLBA, HIPAA, PCI etc) and the resulting increase in adoption of best practice policy and control frameworks (ITIL, COBIT, ISO 17799/27001, 27002).   In the SaaS world, business users have taken on management and support responsibilities traditionally owned by IT.  For example activities such as user provisioning and permissions management, role and profile management, application customization and configuration, and vendor management are now decentralized and distributed in many organizations.
  • Loss of control – in addition to the applications themselves, metadata on users, role and profile models, authorization and credential stores, usage activity and application performance all move outside the corporate firewall.  IT loses visibility and control over this critical management data that is now fragmented across heterogeneous SaaS service providers, in addition to the applications and users themselves.
  • Broken integrations – many IT processes around application and user management are highly automated, supported by integration with on-premise directory services, identity management and systems management solutions.  These integrations largely ‘break’ in an on-demand world, and organizations are rapidly finding that creating a new management ‘blade’ for a given SaaS app in legacy management application is not a realistic, cost effective answer.  Additionally, SaaS applications must be integrated into existing business processes through configuration and management by line-of-business users, with little or no ability to automate integration into cross-application business processes.

While it is still early, clear perspectives are starting to emerge around what the characteristics of a new generation of management solutions that address the unique challenges of on-demand environments will need to include.  Organizations are finding that SaaS and cloud-based service models are driving a convergence in identity and systems management issues, which will require the reinvention of solutions that address these issues.   Areas such as  user access management, policy monitoring and enforcement, data integration and management and business process integration all need a fundamental ‘rethink’ in a cloud-based world.

If you’re interested in receiving a copy of the whitepaper, please contact us.

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