Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Ian Khan, Lori MacVittie, Tim Hinds, Liz McMillan, Tom Lounibos

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Is SAML All You Need to Offer Business Customers SaaS Single Sign-on?

How many customers can you serve with it?

No.

SAML is a protocol, a language. Languages are great for communicating, but a certain language is only useful when communicating with other speakers of the same language.

In business, the value of a language is dependent on how big a share of your current and potential customers speak it. Your choice of language(s) can greatly affect what kind of business you can expect: doing business only in Finnish limits your market to 5 Million people, whereas English lets you address more than a Billion people. You have three options:

  1. Limit your market to only those who speak your language of choice
  2. Learn to speak more languages to address a bigger market
  3. Try to teach more potential customers your language of choice

I have never heard of a successful example of the last alternative in business, have you?

How big a share of your customers "speaks" SAML?
I am not aware of any independent research on SAML adoption, but the largest number of customers I have seen a SAML vendor report is about 800 (written in August 2012), which is a good number for any vendor focused on a very specific area. However, if we presume that the market leader has 800 customers and a market share between 10 and 20 percent, that would lead lead to a conclusion that somewhere around 5000 organizations have invested in SAML solutions. How many of those are in production, and to what extent is another question.

About 5000 organizations, is that much or not? Single sign-on starts having a major impact on the usability of SaaS applications when there are more than a handful of users within an organization. For many common SaaS applications (for instance HR, CRM and document management) that requirement is already met by organizations with 100 employees. According to US Census Bureau (2008), there are more than 100 000 enterprises with 100+ employees in US alone, and the figure for EU is about the same according to Eurostat. Based on these figures, there must be at least 500 000 enterprises of that size in the world. Obviously 5000 organizations is only a fraction of the total number of organizations who would need single sign-on to achieve satisfactory usability for SaaS applications.

For you as a SaaS provider, this means that a very small share of your potential customers currently speak SAML, unless you are focusing on very specific segments where the adoption is higher.

Can you teach your customers to speak SAML?
Your options for teaching customers to speak SAML are:

  1. Reselling some commercial SAML product
  2. Offering a SAML Identity Provider on your own, for example based on some open source software
  3. Reselling or hooking up with some Authentication-as-a-Service offering

When you evaluate these options, the most important criteria are how they affect your business:

  • your value proposal to your customers
  • your revenue and time to recurring revenue
  • your support costs

The core of the SaaS value proposal is simplicity. You tell your customers that you will run and maintain everything for them, and they only have to pay their bills. If you require your customer to get something else from somewhere else in order for your application to really work, then simplicity will suffer, both technically and business-wise.

Recurring revenue and loyalty is what SaaS is about. Your focus should be on engaging as many users as possible within each customer organization as soon as possible. The first hundred days is a well known time span for most people, from a newly elected American president to a new couple. If you or your customer spends that time installing and configuring some on-premise software to improve the usability of your SaaS application, then adoption and usage will suffer, which in the end means less revenue and more churn.

Some of your techies might tell you that they found this great piece of open source software, which they can develop into a SAML Identity Provider that you can give your customers for free. They are probably right. However, what about support? Is your core business to maintain free on-premise software? Do you have the resources and processes for it? Can your customers use your free SAML solution with other SaaS applications as well? Who will support that? Or should customers have one free SAML Identity Provider for each SaaS application?

From a business point of view, it obviously does not make sense for you as a SaaS vendor to try to teach your customers to speak SAML, and it is not very likely to succeed either, because it is usually the one with the money who calls the shots.

How can you offer business customers SaaS single sign-on?
First, let's have a look at what is really required. You need to know who the user is, which typically means information like:

  • name
  • organization
  • business unit
  • access rights
  • email
  • phone

Much of that information can be found in, or derived from, the user directory (AD, LDAP etc) of your customer organization. Your job is to get that information for a user who has authenticated against it, and transfer it to your application in a secure way. None of those steps involve rocket science. The trick is of course to do it in a way that requires as little deployment and maintenance work as possible, both from you and from your customers. That is essential to achieve rollout speed, high adoption and low support costs.

You  need a solution which supports SAML for customers wanting to use that, and a more simple way for the rest. As said before, the core of the SaaS value proposal is simplicity.  We have very good experience from using customers' existing intranet web servers to achieve similar functionality in a less complex way, a solution which practically any customer organization with 100 employees or more can roll out in hours  If you want to read more about such a solution, click here.

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).

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Alibaba, the world’s largest ecommerce provider, has pumped over a $1 billion into its subsidiary, Aliya, a cloud services provider. This is perhaps one of the biggest moments in the global Cloud Wars that signals the entry of China into the main arena. Here is why this matters. The cloud industry worldwide is being propelled into fast growth by tremendous demand for cloud computing services. Cloud, which is highly scalable and offers low investment and high computational capabilities to end us...
One of the ways to increase scalability of services – and applications – is to go “stateless.” The reasons for this are many, but in general by eliminating the mapping between a single client and a single app or service instance you eliminate the need for resources to manage state in the app (overhead) and improve the distributability (I can make up words if I want) of requests across a pool of instances. The latter occurs because sessions don’t need to hang out and consume resources that could ...
Approved this February by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), HTTP/2 is the first major update to HTTP since 1999, when HTTP/1.1 was standardized. Designed with performance in mind, one of the biggest goals of HTTP/2 implementation is to decrease latency while maintaining a high-level compatibility with HTTP/1.1. Though not all testing activities will be impacted by the new protocol, it's important for testers to be aware of any changes moving forward.
"We've just seen a huge influx of new partners coming into our ecosystem, and partners building unique offerings on top of our API set," explained Seth Bostock, Chief Executive Officer at IndependenceIT, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
This week, I joined SOASTA as Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics. Given my background in cloud computing and distributed systems operations — you may have read my blogs on CNET or GigaOm — this may surprise you, but I want to explain why this is the perfect time to take on this opportunity with this team. In fact, that’s probably the best way to break this down. To explain why I’d leave the world of infrastructure and code for the world of data and analytics, let’s explore the timing...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
You often hear the two titles of "DevOps" and "Immutable Infrastructure" used independently. In his session at DevOps Summit, John Willis, Technical Evangelist for Docker, covered the union between the two topics and why this is important. He provided an overview of Immutable Infrastructure then showed how an Immutable Continuous Delivery pipeline can be applied as a best practice for "DevOps." He ended the session with some interesting case study examples.
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin,...
JavaScript is primarily a client-based dynamic scripting language most commonly used within web browsers as client-side scripts to interact with the user, browser, and communicate asynchronously to servers. If you have been part of any web-based development, odds are you have worked with JavaScript in one form or another. In this article, I'll focus on the aspects of JavaScript that are relevant within the Node.js environment.
Learn how to solve the problem of keeping files in sync between multiple Docker containers. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Aaron Brongersma, Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Modulus, discussed using rsync, GlusterFS, EBS and Bit Torrent Sync. He broke down the tools that are needed to help create a seamless user experience. In the end, can we have an environment where we can easily move Docker containers, servers, and volumes without impacting our applications? He shared his results so yo...
Auto-scaling environments, micro-service architectures and globally-distributed teams are just three common examples of why organizations today need automation and interoperability more than ever. But is interoperability something we simply start doing, or does it require a reexamination of our processes? And can we really improve our processes without first making interoperability a requirement for how we choose our tools?
Cloud Migration Management (CMM) refers to the best practices for planning and managing migration of IT systems from a legacy platform to a Cloud Provider through a combination professional services consulting and software tools. A Cloud migration project can be a relatively simple exercise, where applications are migrated ‘as is’, to gain benefits such as elastic capacity and utility pricing, but without making any changes to the application architecture, software development methods or busine...
The Internet of Things. Cloud. Big Data. Real-Time Analytics. To those who do not quite understand what these phrases mean (and let’s be honest, that’s likely to be a large portion of the world), words like “IoT” and “Big Data” are just buzzwords. The truth is, the Internet of Things encompasses much more than jargon and predictions of connected devices. According to Parker Trewin, Senior Director of Content and Communications of Aria Systems, “IoT is big news because it ups the ante: Reach out ...
At DevOps Summit NY there’s been a whole lot of talk about not just DevOps, but containers, IoT, and microservices. Sessions focused not just on the cultural shift needed to grow at scale with a DevOps approach, but also made sure to include the network ”plumbing” needed to ensure success as applications decompose into the microservice architectures enabling rapid growth and support for the Internet of (Every)Things.
Our guest on the podcast this week is Adrian Cockcroft, Technology Fellow at Battery Ventures. We discuss what makes Docker and Netflix highly successful, especially through their use of well-designed IT architecture and DevOps.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
Digital Transformation is the ultimate goal of cloud computing and related initiatives. The phrase is certainly not a precise one, and as subject to hand-waving and distortion as any high-falutin' terminology in the world of information technology. Yet it is an excellent choice of words to describe what enterprise IT—and by extension, organizations in general—should be working to achieve. Digital Transformation means: handling all the data types being found and created in the organizat...
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with ...
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. The DevOps approach is a way to increase business agility through collaboration, communication, and integration across different teams in the IT organization. In his session at DevOps Summit, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist for the Western US at Red Hat, will discuss: The acceleration of application delivery for the business with DevOps