Archive for the ‘Salesforce.com’ Category

Thinking about “The Cloud”

February 10, 2010

Thanks, Scott, for the warm welcome to Conformity’s Blog universe.  I’ve been at Conformity for just about a month now, and I’ve been appointed (is there an opposite of disappointed?) at the excitement around the space, the quality and dedication of the team, and the interest in “our problem” (identity in the cloud) by customers and prospects.

Of course, unless you’ve been under a rock for the past, say, 10 years, you’ve no doubt heard that Cloud Computing (or On-Demand before that or ASP’s before that or Grid’s even before that) will solve everything from bad breath and world hunger to global warming and peace in our time.  While many of the developments are truly exciting, what we today call Cloud Computing should have been expected as an obvious trend from a whole collection of trends that have led up to it.

Why?  Because every advanced endeavor ultimately evolves into increasingly smaller and focused areas of specialization, where we (as individuals or business units or corporations) pay someone else to do things we’re either too busy, too inexperienced, or too lazy to do ourselves.

I suspect few of you reading this now actually grow your own vegetables.  It’s not that you can’t, mind you, since it’s not all that hard.  But farmers and grocery stores and the whole infrastructure behind the process of getting lettuce and carrots into the trunk of my car do it faster, cheaper, and better than I can (or am willing to – I do have small children, after all).

Historically, providing whatever computing services businesses large and small use in the course of their primary business activities has been difficult enough and expensive enough that these same businesses formed “IT Organizations” to provide those services for them (believing — largely correctly — that the IT group could do it faster, cheaper, and better than they could — an early and surprising enduring form of specialization).

No reason why this same process won’t happen again and again and again, with increasing segments of what has traditionally been the purview of what we now call an “on-premise” IT service being delivered by external entities that can perform more and more elements of what IT has traditionally done themselves, and with IT’s role evolving along the way.  With the introduction of a good enough transmission medium (the Internet), a good enough computing platform (LAMP stack, with or without virtualization), and sufficient consolidation, standardization, and economies of scale around certain business applications (e-mail, SFA, CRM, HR, etc), and *POOF* Cloud Computing and Cloud-based Applications are born.

The interesting news (and for companies like Conformity and our partners the good news) is that each of these forays into these areas of specialization come with their own technical and business challenges that must be solved along the way.  We, as technology professionals, get another chance to try to address long-standing questions around business process, pricing, ease-of-use, and the never-ending quest for a more efficient way to separate and distinguish between what Geoff Moore calls “core” versus “context”.

I won’t attempt to address the specifics of how we’ll be solving bad breath, world hunger, global warming, and peace in our time today (must leave something interesting to write about in future posts), but wanted to begin the dialog around what is and is not particularly new about Cloud Computing, what problems we might expect need to be solved (because they *are* different from what’s come before) and which problems are simply old wine in new bottles…

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 >>

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….

Recap: The Enterprise SaaS Working Group

October 1, 2009

It’s been an exciting few days here at Conformity after our recent GA announcement and the kickoff of the Enterprise SaaS Working Group yesterday.  We had a very lively, engaging debate on the key issues the group believes need to be addressed for SaaS and cloud applications to become ‘mainstream’ technologies in the enterprises.  The group featured a diverse set of executive perspectives from cloud vendors, thought leaders and practitioners, and included:

A quick highlight of some of the discussion yesterday:

  • PaaS/SaaS – which model ‘wins’ in the enterprise? While opinions differed, a common sentiment shared by the panel was that there’s not going to be ‘right answer’ for all organizations.  Depending on the industry vertical, business process or IT management model PaaS or SaaS could be the ‘right answer’, and in many situations organizations could have PaaS and SaaS offerings sitting side by side.   
  • Private clouds – part of the answer or indicative of SaaS market immaturity? As with the PaaS/SaaS discussion a common theme was ‘it depends’.  The core advantage to SaaS and cloud delivery models is the ability to share resources – what part of the stack organizations decide they’d like to share will likely be driven primarily by security concerns and issues.  A likely scenario, as with PaaS/SaaS, is that different models will likely be adopted by different types of organizations depending on security and operational requirements.
  • Enterprise SaaS adoption – when does it overtake on-premise? Two different perspectives were discussed around when SaaS will overtake on-premise apps in the enterprise.   A common belief of the group was that SaaS is winning in a majority of new deals in the enterprise today, with the perspective shared that 50-75% of enterprises would ‘flip the switch’ on cloud in some manner by approximately 2012.  Peter Coffee of Salesforce also shared his belief that total installed base for SaaS would outnumber on-premise apps by 2020, though there would also likely be 1-2% of the market that would be ‘holdouts’.
  • Any applications that SaaS/cloud won’t be able to penetrate? If architected and deployed correctly, there are no perceived areas in which SaaS and cloud application models could not be leveraged with Peter Coffee of Salesforce , Tom Fisher of SuccessFactors and Ryan Nichols of Appirio all providing compelling examples of large scale, transaction intensive customer deployments.

The full recording of the webinar is available and can be access by clicking here.  Also, Ryan Nichols at Appirio had a great post on their perspective on our discussion topics 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.

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!!!

Mark your calendar – Enterprise SaaS Working Group webinar

August 28, 2009

We’re excited to announce that on September 30th at 11:00am PDT / 2:00pm EDT we’ll be holding the first event in our Best Practices webinar series, featuring a roundtable discussion with the Enterprise SaaS Working Group. Comprised of recognized thought leaders and visionaries in SaaS and cloud computing, the group will discuss the challenges and issues that need to be overcome for SaaS and cloud applications to become truly ‘enterprise-ready’. Participants in the session will include:

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

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….

SaaS and the Great Recession – the early results

February 13, 2009

Conventional wisdom has held that the current ‘Great Recession’ would help to actually accelerate SaaS adoption, due to the fact that SaaS offers a ‘right-sized, zero-CAPEX alternative to on-premise applications’ as IDC describes it.  Many believe it could be the tipping point that finally drives SaaS into the mainstream – this in fact could become a reality if SaaS draws significant new customers to the model, and customer sat rates maintain their current lofty levels.  Now that we have a full quarter of  market and economic meltdown under our belt so to speak after the September 15th collapse of Lehman, we thought we’d take a look at some of the data to see how the thesis is holding up.  First are the announcements from the major publicly traded SaaS vendors that have reported calendar Q4 2008 results to date:

  • RightNow announced 25% growth in Q4 revenue year-over-year, with the highest total bookings in any quarter in the last two years.
  • Concur reported 19% Q4 revenue growth over 2007, with new customer additions up more than 50% year-over year.
  • SuccessFactors achieved profitability for the first time in the quarter, growing revenue 77% over 2007 and growing their user base to 4.5 million unique, paying customers.
  • NetSuite reported a Q408 revenue that was a 31% increase over 2007.  International revenue actually grew 51% year over year.

This all in an environment where NetSuite notes business spending on equipment and software fell nearly 28%.  While granted these results reflect the impact of sales cycles that likely began much earlier than Q4, the fact that this much business actually closed (instead of getting cancelled or deferred) is notable.

The post-crash news from the analyst world is reinforcing what we’re seeing from the vendors and hearing anecdotally as well.  IDC has boosted their 2009 growth projection for the SaaS market to 40% from 36% previously, and is now actually estimating that by the end of 2009, 76% of US organizations will have deployed at least one SaaS app.

The caveats? 

Salesforce.com has yet to weigh in yet with their Q4 2008 results (currently scheduled to be announced February 25th), which obviously is the most watched bellwether in the SaaS industry.  Also, all the vendors above cautioned about their outlook going forward, with several providing downward guidance to prior 2009 earnings forecasts.  And finally the unpleasant reality that the Great Recession may have only just begun…