Identity, data security fading as enterprise SaaS concerns, survey shows

Survey shows 68% of U.S. organizations will increase SaaS spending between now and 2015, while 80% in Asia/Pacific will increase spending slightly.

San Diego – Identity management and data security are SaaS problem areas that are starting to dissipate, but today are still questions and concerns for enterprise users, according to Gartner analyst Guy Creese.

Creese, speaking at the company’s Catalyst Conference last week, painted software-as-a-service (SaaS), so-called cloud applications, as a gangly teenager that needs to mature.

He says many vendors still have a ways to go with federating identity between their services and enterprise platforms. “Some SaaS systems are only starting to offer SAML support; or they integrate with the in-house identity system via nightly batch runs.” SAML is the Security Assertion Markup Language, a standard protocol for federation that has been around for more than a decade.

Creese said enterprise customers tell Gartner they expected SaaS apps to support SAML, but often find they don’t, or worse, that vendors don’t even know about it. 

He also said off-boarding from SaaS applications those employees who leave the company is another real challenge. Enterprises want to revoke cloud and network access at the same time.

There are a number of vendors emerging to offer cloud identity management to help address user concerns and even move some identity duties to the cloud. In addition, standard protocols such as OAuth 2.0 are being adopted to help marry mobile applications with public/private clouds.

And protocols such as OpenID Connect and initiatives such as the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) are emerging to offer other authentication options.

“Federated identity will improve,” said Creese. “The issue will eventually go away.”

In terms of data security, enterprises still bristle at storing sensitive data with public cloud providers.

Creese said security will improve in fits and starts, but the issue will remain until the SaaS market hits new maturity levels.

Gartner’s research shows cost and agility are still driving SaaS adoption, but concerns still exist around licensing, integration between cloud and on-premises systems, and an immature ecosystem, including insurance, legal issues and IT skill sets.

Financials and office suites remain top SaaS apps in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The other Top 5 apps are expense management, email and sales (which is No. 5 in all three regions).

Creese says 68% of organizations surveyed in the U.S. plan to increase spending and 28% plan to keep it the same between now and 2015.  An additional 2% plan to sharply reduce spending and another 2% will curtail spending slightly. In Asia/Pacific, 80% said they would increase spending slightly. In Europe, SaaS adoption is happening mostly in Northern Europe.

“SaaS is different things to different regions and it has different maturity levels,” Creese said. “It remains a work in progress, but it will get better over time. Make sure your business understands the limitations and the risks. And walk away if necessary.”

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