Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Automic Blog, JP Morgenthal, Flint Brenton, AppDynamics Blog, Liz McMillan

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
From the conception of Docker containers to the unfolding microservices revolution we see today, here is a brief history of what I like to call 'containerology'. In 2013, we were solidly in the monolithic application era. I had noticed that a growing amount of effort was going into deploying and configuring applications. As applications had grown in complexity and interdependency over the years, the effort to install and configure them was becoming significant. But the road did not end with a ...
I have an article in the recently released “DZone Guide to Building and Deploying Applications on the Cloud” entitled “Fullstack Engineering in the Age of Hybrid Cloud”. In this article I discuss the need and skills of a Fullstack Engineer with relation to troubleshooting and repairing complex, distributed hybrid cloud applications. My recent experiences with troubleshooting issues with my Docker WordPress container only reinforce the details I wrote about in this piece. Without my comprehensive...
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, will discuss how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer...
Small teams are more effective. The general agreement is that anything from 5 to 12 is the 'right' small. But of course small teams will also have 'small' throughput - relatively speaking. So if your demand is X and the throughput of a small team is X/10, you probably need 10 teams to meet that demand. But more teams also mean more effort to coordinate and align their efforts in the same direction. So, the challenge is how to harness the power of small teams and yet orchestrate multiples of them...
In a crowded world of popular computer languages, platforms and ecosystems, Node.js is one of the hottest. According to w3techs.com, Node.js usage has gone up 241 percent in the last year alone. Retailers have taken notice and are implementing it on many levels. I am going to share the basics of Node.js, and discuss why retailers are using it to reduce page load times and improve server efficiency. I’ll talk about similar developments such as Docker and microservices, and look at several compani...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, will show how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningfu...
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists will dis...
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at Sapphire Ventures Next-Gen Tech Stack Forum in San Francisco. Obviously, I was excited to join the discussion, but as a participant the event crystallized not only where the larger software development market is relative to microservices, container technologies (like Docker), continuous integration and deployment; but also provided insight into where DevOps is heading in the coming years.
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
Admittedly, two years ago I was a bulk contributor to the DevOps noise with conversations rooted in the movement around culture, principles, and goals. And while all of these elements of DevOps environments are important, I’ve found that the biggest challenge now is a lack of understanding as to why DevOps is beneficial. It’s getting the wheels going, or just taking the next step. The best way to start on the road to change is to take a look at the companies that have already made great headway ...
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.