Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal, FinTech Journal

@CloudExpo: 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).

Latest Stories
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...