Organizations that purchase SaaS products want these solutions to provide audit tracking, single sign-on, and provisioning capabilities. More than half of these organizations would also be more inclined to purchase a particular SaaS solution if it allowed them to use their existing identity management system.
That’s what Novell discovered when they recently conducted a survey of 1,000 large to very large enterprises in the US & Canada as well as 83 qualified SaaS providers. They also discovered, however, that SaaS providers are divided on how best to meet the needs of these clients.
A third of the SaaS vendors we surveyed, for example, suggested that they would attempt to meet the needs of their customers by developing this capability in-house. While that is certainly an option, and these are software vendors after all, there are numerous problems with this approach.
The biggest problem is that customers will bring a variety of identity management solutions to the relationship which will require SaaS providers to devote development resources to a never-ending cycle of customization. It also creates the need for ongoing support of these customized solutions.
Finally, since the development and integration of identity and auditing systems are not going to be the core competency of the SaaS providers, getting into this game means they just aren’t “sticking to their knitting.”
As it turns out, the majority of SaaS providers appreciate these problems, which is why at least half of those Novell surveyed would prefer that someone else take care of it. The two most popular options they would consider are OEMing through a third-party or sourcing through their hosting vendor.
These options are certainly viable and make more sense then going the “build it ourselves” route. Nevertheless, they do present their own challenges.
On the OEM side, SaaS providers will need to find a vendor whose offering integrates both with their software as well as the client’s identity infrastructure with a minimum of customization in every new instance or engagement. At the same time, the OEM/SaaS provider partnership needs to be strong enough so that customer support is never an issue.
Customization and support could also be a limiting factor if SaaS providers choose to meet this client demand via their hosting solution, but this still may be their best bet.
Identity management is essentially an infrastructure function and is becoming more so. Since contemporary hosting tends to be moving towards infrastructure as a service, it’s more likely that these providers will have the technical expertise to integrate identity as a service into there offerings and will have a definite stake in supporting it into the future.
Moreover, it is in the interest of hosting providers to add identity management and related capabilities to their arsenal for the simple reason that it will make them a much more attractive partner to SaaS providers. Hosting is a non-trivial component of the SaaS purchasing decision so the more robust the hosting solution, the better.
If you are considering SaaS alternatives, do you care how your provider solves the identity management challenge?