Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Patrick Carey, Michael Bushong, RealWire News Distribution, Rakesh Shah

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal, OpenStack Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Three Approaches to Single Sign-On for Cloud Application Providers

Ignore, pretend or do something about it?

Did you know that:

  • Half of paid SaaS customers do not use the application at all
  • Nine out of 10 has left an application when they forgot a password, instead of restoring it
  • Eighty-six percent may leave a web site when asked to sign up
  • Two out of five would rather scrub the toilet than come up with a new password

These figures, based on research from Totango and Janrain in 2012, clearly show that sign-up and sign-on are major issues for any cloud application provider.

If you are providing cloud applications to businesses, single sign-on must at least have been up for discussion. Like with most other challenges, there are three possible approaches you can choose between:

  1. Pretend it is not your problem
  2. Pretend you are doing something about it
  3. Do something about it

Let's look at how your choice affects your business, which after all should be your guiding light.

Pretending it is not your problem
This approach is very popular to any challenge, because you get away without doing anything.

Many application providers decide to outsource management of user accounts and password to the customers. They offer some kind of web based administration interface, which one or more local administrators can use to create new user accounts and keeping old ones up-to-date.

However, this approach has some major drawbacks for your business. According to the research mentioned earlier, sign-up and sign-on are among the most critical processes for any online business. This approach transfers the responsibility for these critical processes to people you have no control over, and who have little or no incentives to support your business.

Pretending you are doing something about it
Another popular approach to any challenge is to pretend to do something about, because then you at least have your own back covered.

Some application providers choose this approach by deciding that they only support standards. The problem is that there are no widely adopted standards in this field. SAML is promoted as an industry standard, but that is of little value when your customers haven't adopted it. According to Eric Olden, one of the fathers of SAML, in an article in Computer Magazine in 2011: "The problem with federation and SSO is that, after more than a decade, SAML adoption has not risen above 10 percent of enterprise apps - apparently due to the excessive costs of infrastructure software. There simply is not enough return on investment for most service providers to implement, expand, and manage a complex federation network". The adoption among large enterprises is not any bigger, and especially among mid-sized enterprises SAML is practically non-existent. In my own personal opinion, SAML requires too much from too many to make it mainstream any time soon.

If you pretend you have a solution, then you have to pretend the benefits as well. If half of your business comes from large organizations, and if 10% of them support SAML, then this approach can only bring improvements to 5% of your business. From a business point of view, having a solution that improves 5% of your business is nice to have, but it is by no means strategic.

Doing something about it
Doing something about it is always the hardest choice, because it means that you have to go out to the customers and figure out what would work for them.

So, what are customers using today? As stated above, some large organizations have invested in SAML, but what about the rest? The least common denominator is a network, a user directory, a web server and an internet connection. The most typical setup is a Windows Domain, Active Directory and Microsoft IIS. Active Directory has a market share that is reported to be above 90%, and that figure gives a good indication for the other components as well. Such adoption rates are required by true de facto standards, which are solid enough to build strategic solutions on.

If you are serious about growing your business with large and mid-sized organizations, then it is of strategic importance to eliminate adoption and engagement obstacles related to signing up and signing on. You have to proactively convert as big a share of your customer base as possible to automated sign-on as fast as possible. In order to succeed, requirements on your customers have to be as low as possible in terms of time, investments and expertise. In practice this means that you need a solution, which does not require anything more from your customers than the least common denominator described above. From a business point of view, SAML is just a bonus, and only if you have customers who have invested in it.

If you are interested in such a solution, I would love to continue talks in person.

More Stories By Kjell Backlund

Kjell Backlund, CEO of Emillion, is a seasoned software business entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in international business. He founded Emillion in 2001, with the vision that automating sign-on and user management would be essential to the success of SaaS and Service Desk applications(www.emillion.biz).

Cloud Expo Breaking News
Cloud Computing is evolving into a Big Three of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud 360: Multi-Cloud Bootcamp, being held Nov 4–5, 2014, in conjunction with 15th Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, CA, delivers a real-world demonstration of how to deploy and configure a scalable and available web application on all three platforms. The Cloud 360 Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, an analyst with Gigaom Research, is the first bootcamp that introduces the core concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based on the workings of the Big Three platforms – Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Azure VMs. Bootcamp attendees will get to see the big picture and also receive the knowledge needed to make the best cloud decisions for their business applications and entire enterprise IT organization.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is a natural complement to the cloud and related technologies such as Big Data, analytics, and mobility. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Joe Weinman will lay out four generic strategies – digital disciplines – to exploit emerging digital technologies for strategic advantage. Joe Weinman has held executive leadership positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and Telx, in areas such as corporate strategy, business development, product management, operations, and R&D.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DevOps.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's “DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo,” which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. DevOps.com is where the world meets DevOps. It is the largest collection of original content relating to DevOps on the web today Featuring up-to-the-minute news, feature stories, blogs, bylined articles and more, DevOps.com is where the thought leaders of the DevOps movement make their ideas known.
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that allow marketers to cut through the noise and design their campaigns around strong, predictive signals, rather than arbitrary statistics. SendGrid sends up to half a billion emails a day for customers such as Pinterest and GitHub. All this email adds up to more text than produced in the entire twitterverse. We track events like clicks, opens and deliveries to help improve deliverability for our customers – adding up to over 50 billion useful events every month. While SendGrid data covers only abo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Web Host Industry Review has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 2000, The Web Host Industry Review has made a name for itself as the foremost authority of the Web hosting industry providing reliable, insightful and comprehensive news, reviews and resources to the hosting community. TheWHIR Blogs provides a community of expert industry perspectives. The Web Host Industry Review Magazine also offers a business-minded, issue-driven perspective of interest to executives and decision-makers. WHIR TV offers on demand web hosting video interviews and web hosting video features of the key persons and events of the web hosting industry. WHIR Events brings together like-minded hosting industry professionals and decision-makers in local communities. TheWHIR is an iNET Interactive property.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic networking and advanced communications platforms, Verizon Enterprise Solutions helps open new opportunities around the world for innovation, investment and business transformation. Visit verizonenterprise.com to learn more.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
"In my session I spoke about enterprise cloud analytics and how we can leverage analytics as a service," explained Ajay Budhraja, CTO at the Department of Justice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“We are starting to see people move beyond the commodity cloud and enterprises need to start focusing on additional value added services in order to really drive their adoption," explained Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at MetraTech, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"We are automated capacity control software, which basically looks at all the supply and demand and running a virtual cloud environment and does a deep analysis of that and says where should things go," explained Andrew Hillier, Co-founder & CTO of CiRBA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
All too many discussions about DevOps conclude that the solution is an all-purpose player: developer and operations guru, complete with pager for round-the-clock duty. For most organizations that is not the way forward. In his session at DevOps Summit, Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss how to achieve the agility and speed of end-to-end automation without requiring an organization stocked with Supermen and Superwomen.