Enterprise-Class SaaS Provisioning

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As those of us at Conformity engage enterprise IT teams, we continue to explore the gap between existing provisioning options and SaaS deployments.  Enterprise customers are caught between the promise of cloud and SaaS solutions and the impact of this adoption on their already stretched teams and processes.   In the Conformity white paper, Enterprise-Class SaaS Provisioning, we describe the management challenges organizations face in adopting SaaS applications, and explain why IT groups struggle to utilize existing options for federating on-demand environments.

So, what information can we take away from the enterprise SaaS customers?  As pointed out in our other discussion threads, SaaS is not easily tamed by existing solutions.  We find that the cloud deployment model exposes the following shortcomings of existing alternatives:

  • Disconnected Environments: The most obvious challenge is the separation of multiple SaaS applications and the management solutions.  This disconnect fragments the core IT capabilities, creating unique cloud-based silos of user identity, business policy, and administrative rights.
  • Unexpected Deployment Complexity: IT teams can easily underestimate the impact of adopting SaaS as a solution platform.  Detailed SaaS configurations, coordination between applications, and evolving licensing models can exceed IT expectations, especially when the deployments were independently cultivated in the lines of business.
  • Lack of Deployed Standards: Customers are discovering the industry standards for management and provisioning are not aligned with the aggressive SaaS expansion.  Many advertised standards such as SAML or XACML are focused on alternative use cases and designed for either an on-premise or cloud model, limiting their real adoption by SaaS ISVs.

These challenges have curtailed enterprise efforts to utilize current deployed technologies, and in turn have impacted SaaS rollouts.  IT teams continue to evaluate complementary but incomplete options including enterprise software vendors, cloud-based identity solutions, and unique SaaS ISVs themselves.  This discovery process has provided the benefit of allowing the enterprise teams to better understand the market challenges and applicability of existing solutions.

Working with these IT teams, we have defined a common set of issues for provisioning and management and select criteria for a new approach to federating on-demand environments.  Any solution must provision users to a fully functional state across the user life cycle, a distinct challenge with many SaaS and cloud implementations.   This provisioning must align with existing IT and business processes, leverage line of business expertise, and meet the organizations compliance, security, and data visibility needs.  And deployments must be flexible enough to align with and possibly impact developing standards such as SPML or federation options like Microsoft Geneva while supplying value prior to standards adoption.  In short, these attributes define a new breed of management platform that is designed for the SaaS and cloud-based environments.

For more information, read the Conformity white paper that outlines our findings.  And please feel free to reply and continue the discussion.

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