As a practical matter, when it comes to authentication, Microsoft Active Directory rules the data center roost. As such, when it comes to cloud computing, almost every conversation about moving an application into the cloud almost inevitably comes back to how to manage authentication because most IT organizations don’t want to manage two or more separate authentication systems. That doesn’t necessarily stop organizations from adopting new cloud applications, but it almost invariably dissuades them from moving existing applications to the cloud.
The good news is that we’re starting to see the emergence of services that extend the authentication capabilities of Microsoft Active Directory out to the cloud. For example, Centrify recently launched Centrify DirectControl for SaaS, an implementation of an identity-as-a-service (IaaS) offering running on top of Microsoft Azure that extends Microsoft Active Directory services running on premise to SaaS applications.
According to Centrify CEO Tom Kemp, single sign-on capabilities based on Microsoft Active Directory that extend not only between on-premise and cloud applications, but also include mobile devices, means that for the first time IT organizations can implement a unified approach to identity management that is simple to invoke.
This capability is not only important to IT organizations, it’s critical to the long-term success of SaaS application vendors, many of which need to overcome IT objections on how security and compliance policies are to be maintained when the organization decides to adopt a SaaS application. By allowing existing compliance policies that were developed for Microsoft Active Directory to be extended to those cloud applications, the resistance to those applications on the part of the internal IT organization is substantially reduced.
Most SaaS application vendors try to do an end run around the IT organization because they know compliance is going to be an issue, especially in the enterprise. To a large degree, Centrify is now taking that issue off the table.