Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite – Welcome to the Party!

Today Microsoft announced its new solutions including Office for iPad that lie at the “intersection of cloud and mobile computing.” Overall, I think today’s announcement does a nice job of setting the tone that Microsoft intends to be a major cloud and mobile vendor no matter what the underlying operating system is, and shows its willingness to embrace platforms that are not tied to the Microsoft moniker.

We at Centrify watched with keen interest one particular element of the announcement — the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite. It also puts a major stake in the ground re: the company’s intention to be a major cloud and mobile vendor outside of its pillars of cloud strength in Windows Azure and Office 365.

So what Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS)? It is simply a pricing bundle of existing Microsoft solutions, namely InTune (think Systems Center Configuration Manager but a cloud version), Azure Rights Management Services (information protection for sensitive data such as Office 365 email), and the not yet generally available Windows Azure Active Directory premium edition (think Active Directory but for the cloud plus add-on services such as password reset and federation). According to a Gartner analyst who was quoted in Network World, EMS is ‘largely a bundling” and “customers could already buy the individual components and will still be able to.” Interestingly, while it is touted as a cloud offering, to purchase EMS it “assumes the business already has Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and Endpoint Protection licenses,” which are on-premise offerings from Microsoft that customers may not have purchased and/or deployed. But the overall point behind EMS is to marry mobile device management with identity and access management at least from a SKU perspective.

After watching the demo, we could sincerely say “welcome to the party!”

As a leading independent vendor in the identity management market for many years, Centrify and its product team saw this exact opportunity a few years ago. And as a nimble software vendor we developed and launched a purpose-built SaaS and mobile device identity solution — the Centrify User Suiteback in early 2013.

The approach was both simple and strategic — maximize productivity for end users regardless of what SaaS/cloud/mobile app they’re using. And, maximize the security and compliance required by IT, while reducing their administrative time and cost.

The result was the industry’s first solution for SaaS SSO (implemented as Identity as a Service, or “IDaaS”) with integrated mobile device management (MDM). This solution has been enabling our customers’ SSO for Office 365 and over 2,500 other SaaS apps since last year, as well as providing robust mobile security (e.g. multi-factor authentication, Zero Sign-on, app deployment, device management, etc.) for mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and Mac that are accessing those cloud-based services. And based on any number of metrics, be it number of apps supported, depth of mobile capability, day 1 support for new platforms such as Samsung KNOX or Mac OS X 10.9, etc., the Centrify User Suite is the most comprehensive and complete solution on the market that marries SaaS and mobile management. [And don’t forget Centrify also addresses on-premises systems and apps with Centrify Server Suite.]

These quick screenshots tell the story better than my blog copy:

User Portal

Cloud Manager

Applications - Identity Management

A note on the screen shots above: our approach is a truly integrated solution for identity management, access management, and device management across multiple devices with a single cloud-based architecture + a single interface for both End Users as well as for IT Users. And we provide a robust development platform for identity and mobile management for Developers. This is a “people-centric” suite from a technology perspective (hence the name Centrify User Suite), not a mobility management suite in the form of a “pricing bundle” of disconnected and disparate tools and technologies that don’t share a common user or admin portal, let alone an app for Android or support for Mac (important platforms in this new, mobile, cloud-enabled world).

What I think Microsoft’s announcement does well is highlight that the cloud (and the thousands of SaaS apps including Office 365 that reside on it) has become inextricably tied to the mobile environment and platforms. And that we — as innovative vendors in the identity, security and cloud sectors — need to help IT teams best manage that ever-tightening cloud-mobile bond, while making them + their end users increasingly *more* productive…not the opposite.

So to Microsoft — with whom we partner to enable single sign-on and mobile management for Office 365 and more — we will continue to innovate on behalf of joint customers using Windows Azure, Office 365, Active Directory and more.

And welcome to the SaaS-mobile identity + management party…we like seeing our vision validated!

Sometimes it takes a major player such as Microsoft shining a light on a market to really make it grow and take off. We are excited about that happening, as we believe a rising tide will definitely float multiple boats.