Archive for the ‘Active Directory’ Category

On the subject of password management…

August 19, 2010

There is an interesting movement that is happening in and around the Identity management space in there is a struggle going on between the desire to have a single universal and secure way of accessing resources and applications, and finding the right third-party to “trust” with your access.

A variety of technologies and vendors are involved including SAML, Active Directory, individual passwords, and some of the social media vendors such as Facebook and Twitter, to name a few. And of course, all the other cloud, enterprise, and identity vendors have a dog in this fight too.

Here at Conformity we are clearly a part of the discussion, and ultimately we hope, part of the solution, but the ugly truth is the vast majority of current secure website services and SaaS business applications still use passwords for their primary authentication model. Andrew Jaquith’s blog entry on “The Rationality Of Re-Using Passwords” makes an observation that passwords will be around for a long time, which is a point of view that I share.

Since we are on the topic of passwords and logins, I need to mention that Conformity just introduced a new product, ConformityConnect, that is designed to be a simple to use, simple to deploy, and simple to administer way of securely managing the plethora of logins that we face every day at work.  If you find yourself drowning in passwords, this might be the life saver you’ve been looking for. It also lays a foundation for addressing some of the other issues I raised above. Sometimes the best policy is to trust no one but yourself

You can try ConformityConnect out for free by clicking HERE.

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Recap: Enterprise SaaS Working Group – Identity Management in the Cloud

December 4, 2009

We had a great second meeting of the Enterprise SaaS Working Group this week, which focused on the topic of access and identity management for the cloud.  Participants in the session included Chris Bedi from VeriSign, Peter Dapkus from  Salesforce.com, Ryan Nichols from Appirio (who also provided a great summary of the event on the Appirio blog), Steve Coplan from  The 451 Group, Michael Amend from Dell, Doug Harr from Ingres and Scott Carruth from Initiate Systems.   Our initial discussion focused on the unique management challenges created by SaaS and cloud applications due to the the identity silos they create in the enterprise as shown below.

Cloud identity in the enterprise

The ensuing roundtable discussion focused on the impact these issues are having in the enterprises, with a particular focus on the following topics:

  • Speed bump or show stopper – on the question of whether access and identity management issues were a going to be a ‘speed bump’ or ‘show stopper’ for SaaS adoption in the enterprise, the answer really revolved around timing and depth of penetration.  While today it is more of a speed bump for initial adoption in the enterprise (or else we wouldn’t be seeing enterprise deals today), the issues become more problematic when considering what it will take for SaaS and cloud applications to become a ‘mainstream’ technology. Taken from that perspective, there was agreement that identity issues around access, authentication and authorization created by SaaS identity ‘silos’ were going to soon become major, and that they need to be reconciled and addressed.  
  • The directory redefined – one of the questions we posed around the future of the corporate directory, and whether enterprises would ever permit it to live in the cloud.  Chris Bedi of VeriSign made the great point that the more relevant and important question is around what a directory really becomes in a cloud-centric environment – where it ends up residing will be a function of how that question is answered.
  • Federated identity – related to the directory point, the group generally also agreed that in a cloud-centric (or even hybrid SaaS/on-prem environment) that there was unlikely to be a monolithic directory or source of identity related data, and that SaaS applications, HR systems and directories (on-prem and cloud) would also likely each contain ‘versions of the truth’ that will need to be synchronized and federated.  Ryan Nichols provided a very interesting example of how Appirio themselves have built a cloud-centric organization with Salesforce.com and Google both providing separate but complementary directory and identity data.
  • Identity done right – Doug Harr made the excellent point that current cloud identity challenges actually offer an opportunity for SMB and midsize enterprises who haven’t been able to invest in identity and systems management technologies to date to ‘get it right’.   IAAS and cloud-based identity management services will likely make these capabilities cost-effective for these target markets for the first time, enabling these organizations to effectively ‘white sheet’ their identity management approaches for both cloud and on-premise applications.

The full recording of the webinar is available and can be access by clicking here.  Please drop us an email as eswg@conformity-inc.com to be added to our mailing list, and to be notified of future Enterprise SaaS Working Group news and events.

12/2 Enterprise SaaS Working Group webinar – Access and Identity Management for the Cloud

November 16, 2009

We’re excited to announce that on December 2nd  at 10:00am PST / 1:00pm EST we’ll be holding the second meeting of the Enterprise SaaS Working Group on the topic of Access and Identity Management for the Cloud.

One of the recognized challenges with SaaS in the enterprise is the silos of identity that are created by cloud applications. Each service contains its own ‘version of the truth’ around users, permissions and credentials, disconnected from legacy directory services and identity management systems. Based on feedback from our first event, this meeting will focus on the identity management and access control issues that need to be addressed for SaaS to become truly mainstream in the enterprise. Discussion will focus on several questions including:

  • SaaS identity issues in the enterprise – speed bump or show stopper?
  • What will be the identity source(s) in a cloud-centric world?
  • Can separate cloud and on-premise user identities co-exist?
  • Will enterprise IT ever put corporate directories in the cloud?

Participants in the session will include:

The discussion will focus on critical issues and corresponding best practices in the areas of access management, authentication, identity synchronization and identity policy enforcement and will include a Q&A session open to all attendees. Click here for more information and to register for this exciting event!

Register now >>

Emerging Best Practices – Extending Microsoft Active Directory to SaaS and Cloud Applications

November 13, 2009

Though cloud and SaaS solutions are seeing rapid adoption in the enterprise, management of these applications is not aligned with traditional IT controls and policies.  SaaS has been deployed and managed largely by business users, with limited input from CIOs and IT organizations.  As these cloud-based technologies replace mission-critical on-premise applications and host sensitive organizational data, enterprise IT is now regaining their ‘seat at the table’.   When seeking to extend policies and controls to SaaS, these IT organizations are disappointed to learn that existing directories and  IT management technologies don’t easily extend to the cloud.  These organizations struggle to achieve alignment of SaaS and cloud solutions with established enterprise identity sources including Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS), directory services, and Identity Management (IdM) solutions.  This alignment and resulting visibility and control is critical for IT and Finance departments concerned with regulatory compliance, governance, and identity and access management.

Given the role that Microsoft Active Directory and associated proxy services play in  providing centralized authentication, access control, and identity synchronization for on-premise applications  it would seem to be a logical integration point to also harness SaaS and cloud solutions.  Unfortunately IT organizations are finding that AD itself does not easily extend into leading SaaS applications, with direct integration difficult if not impossible.

Despite this inability to directly integrate AD with major cloud applications, forward-thinking enterprises are focusing on a “loose coupling” of on-premise Microsoft Active Directory and SaaS solutions through new third party management solutions.  This approach allows an integration path with the existing, deployed directory technologies and does not require major adjustments in the SaaS vendor technology roadmaps.  By integrating the current SaaS and directory solutions, the enterprise can align critical services including user identity and attributes, login services (Single Sign-On), and IT policies.  This alignment can lead to immediate benefits in security, IT efficiency, and governance and regulatory compliance.  In our new white paper, Extending Microsoft Active Directory to the Cloud, we explore the approaches and solutions organizations are leveraging to identity synchronization, policy enforcement and single sign-on (SSO).

Click here to request a free copy >>

Top Ten Mistakes Companies Make When Adopting SaaS

November 3, 2009

While billions of dollars will be spent on SaaS and cloud applications by the end of 2009, executives continue to question data security inside the cloud.  A recent article in CIO Magazine notes a growing majority of execs are worried about cloud security.  These executives recognize that each SaaS application, like Salesforce.com, represents a potential highway of highly sensitive corporate data outside the firewall and outside IT’s security protocol.  While no means exhaustive, here is a list of mistakes we’re seeing companies make when deploying SaaS applications, creating unnecessary risk and cost for their organizations:

  1. Creating the ‘three-headed admin’ – granting multiple people administrator-level roles inside a single SaaS application, or having multiple admins share the same credentials.  Aside from the obvious security issues, resulting SaaS app management data typically ends up reflecting multiple perspectives of users and permissions.
  2. Hoping that everyone ‘locks the door’ – relying on manual workflows, phone calls and emails to de-provision SaaS users’ access in an accurate and timely fashion across SaaS apps.   If there’s not an automated way to guarantee deprovisioning across all apps, then it’s unlikely that it’s happening.
  3. Applying a short term ‘band-aid’ for management – using trouble ticketing and help desk systems to coordinate administration between central IT and departmental SaaS admins.  This is typically a short term fix that just kicks critical provisioning and identity management issues down the road, and does it in a way that creates more pain later.
  4. Attempting the IT ‘end-run’ – not engaging IT on management and support until SaaS app(s) become “mission critical” within the organization.  As SaaS and cloud are now becoming more mainstream technologies, IT is regaining their seat at the table to help extend existing policies and controls – ignore this dynamic at your own peril.
  5. Delegating policy enforcement – relying on individual SaaS administrators to enforce corporate policies for roles and permissions.  Most organizations have access control policies and controls exist for on-premise apps and data, but few think about how to extend them to SaaS and cloud applications prior to deployment, particularly in environments with distributed administration.
  6. Believing in a management ‘silver bullet’ – assuming that existing on-premise directories (such as Microsoft Active Directory) or identity management tools (including SSO) extend to support all SaaS-related identity challenges.  They don’t.
  7. Creating ‘two sets of rules’ – treating SaaS governance differently than on-premise applications with regard to user identity and compliance.  Governance frameworks and best practices should consistently apply to applications no matter how they’re delivered.
  8. Failing to create a ‘rearview mirror’ for audit and compliance – failure to identify and approach for capturing an audit trail of access, usage, user change and permissions history.  Though delivered by a 3rd party, companies are still responsible for implementing and enforcing access control policies, and for demonstrating it at audit time.
  9. Forgetting about compliance reporting – wasting 20-30 executive hours each quarter to manually compile reports for internal or external compliance audits.  Forgetting to consider compliance reporting needs up front when evaluating SaaS vendors and overall SaaS/cloud strategy can be painful.
  10. When in doubt, spending more – buying unnecessary subscription seats because of a lack of visibility to actual subscriptions and current usage.

We’d be interested in hearing what others are seeing and hearing in these areas as well…

Extending Active Directory to the Cloud

October 17, 2009

One of the use cases we’re almost universally supporting across our midsize enterprise customer base here at Conformity is integration with Microsoft Active Directory (AD), and providing the ability to extend and link employee, role and organizational data with identity stores contained in leading SaaS applications such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Google Apps and others. With our AD connector, customers of the Conformity platform are extending capabilities today in two major areas:

  • User provisioning / deprovisioning – by normalizing and synchronizing role and permissions models across AD and Conformity and through deploying our event monitoring capabilities customers can automate user provisioning, deprovisioning and change management activities.    When a new employee is onboarded and set up within AD, access and permissions to cloud services appropriate for the employee’s role are automatically provisioned via Conformity.  For example, when a new outside sales rep joins the organization, when added in AD they then can also be provisioned against Salesforce.com, Xactly and Google Apps with appropriate access and permissions.   When the sales rep changes title or role, or leaves the organization, changes in AD also then trigger appropriate changes in cloud application access and permissions.  In effect, we’re providing users a cloud provisioning extension for AD that enables IT to extend access policies and controls to the cloud.
  • Chargeback models – integration of department and other organizational identifiers between AD and Conformity’s role model also streamlines our customers ability to automate extension of internal chargeback and financial management models to cloud applications.  By linking SaaS administrative siloes to AD  via Conformity, enterprises can track and manage departmental usage not just at the application level, but also within specific modules within the cloud services themselves.

In addition to dramatically reducing administrative headaches, synchronizing and normalizing identity data across AD and major cloud applications is also enabling them to streamline audit prep activities, reduce operational costs and strengthen access control and security.  More to come on this…

The Three Key SaaS Management Challenges

October 15, 2009

We find very few people today that would dispute the notion that SaaS and cloud applications have become mainstream technologies in SMB and the midmarket.  The challenges for the SaaS industry are also changing as a result.   With the battle over the viability of the on-demand model largely won,  the questions are now turning to the operational and IT management  implications of a SaaS-centric environment.

Our customers and prospects here at Conformity are forward-thinking organizations that are aggressively leveraging the cloud delivery model for multiple, if not a majority of their business applications.  Given our strong  belief in the SaaS and cloud model, we believe that they are a good indicator of trends we’ll shortly be seeing more broadly in the market.    All of these organizations are struggling with what their management processes and approaches look like in a purely ‘on-demand’ model.   Among these multi-SaaS organizations we’re consistently seeing three general problem domains:

  1. User provisioning and administration – as they’re optimized for different problem sets, all major SaaS applications have fundamentally different ways of thinking about users, roles, profiles and permissions.  Organizations have tended to have separate business administrators for say Salesforce.com, NetSuite and SuccessFactors.  Each of these admins as a result has had to develop a separate model of their organization, deparments and role structures, with the result being that various siloed identity stores have been created across the organization.  These stores are are all independent from each other and from on-premise directory services (Microsoft AD) and identity management solutions.  Normalizing these identity stores in support of centralized, streamlined administration and reporting is a common theme we’re hearing, and what what our solution here at Conformity is addressing.
  2. Single sign-on (SSO) / authentication – another common challenge we’re hearing is the desire to provide end-users the ability to access multiple SaaS applications (and often on-prem apps as well) using a single set of credentials, both for end-user convenience and security purposes.  This is the problem set being  addressed by vendors such as Ping Identity, Tricipher and Symplified.
  3. Data integration – the final theme we’re hearing is around cross-application data integration, and the desire to integrate multiple ‘best of breed’ applications across a common business processes or workflow.  This issue set consists of integration of cloud apps to both cloud and on-premise applications.   This is the domain being addressed by vendors such as Cast Iron Systems, Pervasive and Boomi.

While the data integation challenge is fairly distinct from the first two challenges, significant market confusion exists around provisioning and SSO, and whether a solution in one addresses both areas.  The short answer is no – the very simple analogy we use is that SSO tells you if you should let the visitor knocking on the front door into the house – provisioning and permissions management provides guardrails around what they can and cannot do once they’re in the front door.  Both are needed, but complementary capabilities – more to come on this….

Conformity Announces GA Release of First Enterprise-Class Management Platform for SaaS and Cloud Apps

September 30, 2009

We’re excited to announce today the general availability of the Conformity solution, which provides customers the first enterprise-class management platform for cloud applications and users.  The Conformity solution is designed to arm enterprises with the same level of visibility and control over on-demand applications as they’ve come to expect with traditional packaged apps.  With our solution, enterprises can now be confident bringing new cloud applications into their business environments, knowing there will no longer be compromises made in the areas of management processes, insight and control.  With today’s GA, enterprises can:

  • Increase data security and reduce compliance risks
  • Optimize license allocation and expenses
  • Automate and streamline administration
  • Expand and extend enterprise usage of SaaS and cloud applications

Specific capabilities of the Conformity solution include:

  • User provisioning – provides centralized point of provisioning and deprovisioning of users accounts within cloud applications, and ongoing management of user permissions and authorizations.
  • Role and profile management – enables organizations to centrally manage cloud application roles, profiles and permissions through normalized permission models, and maps policies to users and roles.
  • Approval workflows – provides auditable cross-functional approval processes for users requiring new or amended access permissions, or role and profile changes.
  • Directory integration – enables organizations to seamlessly synchronize Conformity’s user repository with on-premise directory services.
  • Compliance reporting – provides reports required for effective preparation for audits for SOX, HIPAA, PCI and other regulatory mandates and standards.
  • Usage analytics – provides visibility, analytics and reporting on cloud application and license utilization.
  • Change management – enables archiving, management and recovery of application configurations and role models.

The Conformity platform provides templates, tools and workflow needed to manage all cloud applications in a customer’s environment.  Conformity also provides additional analytics, reporting and provisioning automation through integrations with the following leading cloud applications:

The Conformity platform also supports directory integration for Microsoft Active Directory, and is compatible with industry standards such as SPML, SAML and WS-Federation.

Please click here to read the full announcement, and stay tuned for more upcoming news!!!

Closing the gap between IT and SaaS

July 8, 2009

One of the big challenges the SaaS industry continues to face (which we talked about at our presentation at SaaS University last week in Chicago) is the gap that exists between the APIs/management access that SaaS applications provide today and the expectations of CIOs and IT teams, particularly in the enterprise.  The end-customer CIOs we’re working with are typically surprised at how difficult it is to integrate most SaaS applications into their existing management processes and solutions –  a CIO we recently spoke with just assumed that all major SaaS applications supported direct integrations into Active Directory and LDAP.  On the flip side, most SaaS vendors are being faced with IT requirements and expectations they haven’t yet considered, let alone support in their services (though there are exceptions) particularly in identity-related areas such as user authentication and access control.

Why is this important?

IT is regaining its seat at the table when it comes to SaaS.  In mid-size enterprises, as SaaS adoption has accelerated cross-functionally organizations are beginning to look to IT to centralize management and governance of SaaS applications and users to minimize compliance risks and administrative costs.   In a recent survey we found that IT was involved in management and administration of SaaS applications in 72% of multi-SaaS organizations.   In larger enterprises that are now taking a serious look at SaaS, IT is involved from the start to determine how the applications will be integrated into broader business processes and other on-premise applications, as well as management processes and solutions.  We’re starting to hear from both types of organizations, as well as the SaaS vendors that serve them, that application ‘manageability’ is becoming a consideration in sales cycles – in fact we’re aware of several situations where an incumbent SaaS provider was displaced by an offering with improved API and management access.

Why the disconnect between SaaS vendors and IT?  Based on our experiences and interactions with both sides of the issue, the gap that exists between SaaS applications and IT is driven by two factors:

  • SMB legacy – the majority of leading SaaS vendors (including Salesforce.com) grew from an initial focus on SMB customers.   Applications were architected and optimized to solve a specific functional business problem for this initial class/size of customer, with (understandably) limited focus on how the application would have to integrate into multi-SaaS or enterprise environments.
  • IT as ‘the enemy’ – the ease of deployment and flexibility of SaaS eliminated the need for business users to involve their IT organizations in the selection, configuration and management of SaaS applications.   As IT historically has neither been a decision-maker or influencer in the sales process, most SaaS vendors haven’t been exposed to IT organizations, particularly in the enterprise.  In fact, IT was and is often times (and often unfairly) characterized as the enemy of SaaS adoption, needlessly entangling business users in red tape and bureaucracy.  IT teams have also been part of the problem, often taking little interest in administering or managing SaaS applications.  In either case, most SaaS vendors have had relatively limited interactions with enterprise IT organizations, particularly when compared to on-premise ISVs.

We fundamentally believe that for SaaS adoption to continue to accelerate in both midmarket and large enterprises that the gap between IT requirements and SaaS application capabilities will need to be closed.  SaaS vendors need to improve APIs, management access and visibility in areas such as user and identity management, activity logging and monitoring, service management and back-office/financial management.  More on this to come….