Better Together: Why Identity and Mobility are about to Converge

Two once-distinct markets are on course for convergence: mobility and identity. It’s a merger that will drive success for vendors that get the blend right—and could spell trouble for vendors that once prospered by focusing on mobility or identity alone.

Only a couple of years ago, emerging companies that specialized in either mobility or identity did quite well. Identity and access management (IAM) vendors such as Okta rose to prominence by enabling enterprise users to easily access their various cloud applications, such as Salesforce, Workday and Taleo, via single sign-on. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors such as AirWatch (acquired by VMware) and MobileIron (NASDAQ: MOBL) made a good living by helping organizations manage an ever-increasing array of mobile devices.

But times are changing. IAM services were built for a desktop-centric universe, not a mobile one, and as mobility conquers the enterprise, single sign-on companies are struggling to adapt, especially as users increasingly access their cloud-based applications via mobile devices.

EMM vendors are also losing their mojo as many of their key features have become commoditized. For example, mobility management vendors once did well by securing apps and data with technologies such as app-wrapping and containerization. But now the leading smartphone OS vendors, primarily Google and Apple, offer these same features as a basic element of their mobile capabilities.

IAM and EMM vendors are, of course, responding to their respective challenges. EMM firms are trying to leverage identity as a new value proposition. They’re touting identity and authentication services as a way to reduce friction for enterprise users, giving them an easier way to access applications from a variety of devices. In a parallel effort, single sign-on vendors are promoting their ability to better mobilize the enterprise by authenticating mobile applications from any device.

But is it enough? Can IAM vendors simply add mobility features to their existing solutions and declare success? And can EMM vendors just bolt on (or buy) identity and write themselves a clean bill of health?

Probably not. The vendors that thrive in the increasingly mobile marketplace will do so by properly uniting identity and mobility to fully unlock the app economy.

Why mobile-identity convergence is essential

In the old desktop-centric world, enterprise IT had almost complete control of their devices. They knew exactly who was using those devices, what software was loaded on them and whether those devices were securely connected to the network. But in today’s mobile world, the enterprise hasn’t got a clue.

That’s why identity management is integral to the modern mobile enterprise. Better identity management means better connections. It means apps know who their users are and what they’re allowed to do. It means IT departments can give mobile users secure, seamless access to the corporate data and apps they must have – wherever those apps may actually live.

Identity provides the rigorous, comprehensive, and secure framework that employees need to be productive and companies need to compete in the ever-growing app economy.

Identity and mobile must converge, a fact that’s now widely accepted among intelligent companies. Witness large technology vendors such as Microsoft and VMware pulling together the two once-separate functions to address the emerging dual-market opportunity – whether by building it themselves or buying the needed pieces.

Enterprises work better when mobility and identity are combined.

Users can easily access company apps from their mobile devices when they’re in the office. And when they’re out of the physical office they can be prompted to provide additional authentication. This is a perfect example of device policy, location policy, app policy and identity policy integrated as a smoothly functioning whole.

Mobile-identity convergence also bolsters security. Say a user is accessing a company app, such as Salesforce, from her smartphone. But the system notices the same user is also at home accessing her email from a Mac. Obviously, she can’t be in two places at once. So the Salesforce app will prompt her to provide additional authentication.

Some integrations are better than others

Despite the many benefits of a converged mobility-identity offering, not all integrations are created equal. If you try to piece together identity and mobility as loosely integrated components, you simply won’t get the same value versus a combined solution that was developed as one from the ground up.

That’s what we’ve done at Centrify. Our foundation is a purpose-built solution for identity and EMM. While we live and breathe identity, we recognized early the importance of mobile in the market, so our product is built as one platform with a mobile-first, cloud-first mindset.

Instead of piecing together disparate product lines, we took a fresh approach by natively integrating single sign-on in a mobile environment. We know that in a world where users switch from device to device, the real imperative is not securing a device at a given point of time, but continuously securing users and their identity—wherever they happen to be.

Identity and mobility will continue on their convergence course. And as they do, more vendors will come to the conclusion that the mobile-identity integration must be focused and flawless. Centrify has been there from the start.