Centrify's Frank Cabri, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, and Cory Williams, Director of Product Management, stopped by to introduce Centrify Express 2011 and discuss why the company is offering a free version of their ActiveDirectory interconnection software. To sum up our conversation, Centrify is responding to today's regulatory environment and the fact that the workforce is both increasingly mobile and working in far away places rather than in headquarters. Making it easy to use the organization's Active Directory repository will simply the environment and bring a higher level of control and security.
What is Centrify Express 2011?Centrify Express is composed of entry level versions of five of Centrify's products including:
- DirectControl Express — ActiveDirectory integration for UNIX, Linux and Mac systems that provides a single sign on capability for users
- DirectManage Express — Centralized management combined with automated analysis and deployment
- Centrify Insight — Reporting, dashboards and Security Incident and Event Monitor (SIEM) integration
- Centrify CloudTools — Security and management for cloud solutions
- Centrify Open Source Tools — open source tools designed to help administrators manage environments in a secure way
The conversation focused a bit on Centrify Insight because it is a new addition to the Centrify product portfolio. Centrify Insight is based upon tools from Splunk that provide sophisticated analysis and operational intelligence capabilities. This tool makes it possible to examine both local and ActiveDirectory accounts and show things like when have users attempted to log in, determine what applications they've been using (and not using) and assure that the Centrify environment is "healthy."
Snapshot analysisIt is clear that IT faces an ever increasing challenge. Applications are increasingly distributed across many data centers, may be running on physical or virtual system and might just be executing in some service provider's data center. To add to that complexity, staff members, consultants and customers are using a diverse set of access-point devices that range from desktop systems, laptops, smartphones and tablets. These devices run many different operating systems and each operating system offers a different set of capabilities. Making this ever changing set of systems a secure, manageable environment is quite a challenge.
Centrify believes that if it builds on top of Microsoft's Active Directory, it can create a solution that will satisfy a large percentage of organizations. They beleive that Active Directory has become pervasive. When I asked what Centrify planned to do about organizations that are using other directory services or make sparing use of Active Directory, they pointed out that they have to start somewhere and build out their product offerings. They went on to tell me that they'd support other environments when there was sufficient customer demand. I pointed out that those using other environments would simply go elsewhere rather than demanding something of Centrify.
Offering a no-cost product that is a subset of the commercial product is a tried and true method of getting organizations to try out a supplier's products. Centrify is clearly making best use of this approach today. I suspect that those organizations that download and try Centrify Express 2011 will like it and eventually install the commercial versions of Centrify's products.
The reports the product offers that show who is using software, when they are using it and, more importantly, what isn't being used offer IT and opportunity to better manage software usage. After all, why pay for a company-wide license for something that only three people use? It also seems an easy way to make sure that newcomers are given the software that they're really going to use rather than loading up their systems with everything under the sun.
If you're using Active Directory and also have systems running UNIX, Linux or Mac OS, Centrify Express is worth learning about. If you've standardized on some other directory, this package will really not be of interest.