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Thursday, 15 July 2021 17:14

Why shifting identity and access management to the cloud can deliver big benefits

By Ashley Diffey, Ping Identity

GUEST OPINION by Ashley Diffey, Ping Identity:  The business strategy dubbed ‘digital transformation’ has been part of the forward plans of many organisations for years. Their aim has been to take advantage of rapidly evolving technologies to improve efficiencies and drive growth.

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, strategic plans had to be urgently reviewed. The need to equip staff to work from home took priority as did finding new ways to meet the demands of customers.

As a result, many digital transformation strategies quickly shifted from planning to implementation. Changes that would have taken years to complete were put in place in just months or even weeks.

In many cases the results are impressive. Manual, paper-based workflows have been replaced with digital equivalents. Documents and forms have been digitised and infrastructure deployed that enables staff to more effectively work from home.

There has also been a sharp increase in the adoption of cloud-based resources that allow staff to access applications and data from any location, and collaborate with each other as required.

Identity in the cloud

When implementing a cloud-first strategy for applications, many organisations turn to software as a service (SaaS) as an initial step. However, when it comes to important functions such as user identity, which operates as a platform across many other systems, things are often more complex.

When considering migration of your identity capability into the cloud, there are unique challenges and significant opportunities. Because it is a hub of so many critical functions in an organisation, understanding exactly how to move identity to the cloud is critical.

Large and complex enterprises have much to consider when searching for a reliable partner who can deliver a cloud-ready identity platform that solves their complex multi-cloud and hybrid needs. The solution needs to be reliable, flexible and totally secure.

When considering a shift of identity to the cloud, it’s important to focus on the core drivers of any cloud-first initiative. These drivers include the need to:

Comply with management demands to reduce cost and complexity

Reduce or remove the need to manage in-house infrastructure

Enable upgrades to occur without effort

Simplify configuration of common use cases

Improve the overall user experience

Achieve quick time to value

Lower risk through deployment consistency

Meet predefined scalability, performance, and availability goals

When you consider these drivers, the adoption of SaaS alternatives becomes an easy decision. However, when it comes to identity, further considerations need to be made. They include:

Data sovereignty

Being comfortable with identity as a shared service

The level of control required over High Availability (HA) and Disaster Recovery (DR) strategies

Whether the SaaS Service Level Agreement (SLA) is good enough

Having confidence in the security of the shared service

Effectiveness in a multi-cloud environment. Whether integration, user migration, legacy interoperability and customer experience requirements can be addressed by the SaaS solution under consideration

The last point is potentially the most important. Choosing an identity solution that maximises your identity capability, flexibility, and interoperability is key in extracting value from the identity solution itself, but also from your broader digitisation programme. The right identity solution provides a superior identity experience by:

● Integrating with strategic systems that are core to the digital experience (e.g. CRM)

● Enabling an end user look and feel and that is both differentiated and brand aligned

● Simultaneously enhancing security posture while minimising friction via the application of intelligent controls such as contextual MFA

● Providing legacy interoperability that retains a quality experience in the interim

Providing an identity experience that is anything less than excellent potentially undermines the entire value proposition of any digitisation programme. The importance of getting identity right in a post COVID world cannot be understated.

Taking a DevOps approach to identity

As a result of these considerations, companies with complex requirements are driving growth in the trend of adopting DevOps for identity solutions. Companies that are adopting DevOps in their IT organisations should look at leveraging containerised identity software to achieve their cloud-first goals. This approach, along with orchestration, will help the organisation achieve cloud-first goals in a manner consistent with DevOps practices. 

One way identity companies can help customers achieve their DevOps and cloud-first goals is through container technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes. These technologies allow software to be readily deployed on any cloud while simplifying the software lifecycle management. 

Some companies do not necessarily have DevOps expertise, but are still looking for advanced identity services to achieve cloud-first initiatives. This is where companies should seek customised options that combine the benefits of advanced, highly configurable identity and access management capabilities while wrapped in a dedicated cloud environment with data and resource isolation.

Further, identity as a service (IDaaS) can assist companies seeking as-a-service, cloud-based subscription models for identity management. IDaaS can contain a range of services, but typically includes single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and directory services that provide organisations with simple and cost-effective identity and access management capabilities.

There are significant benefits that can be gained through the use of cloud-based identity services. Consider how this approach could be put to work within your organisation to assist in this ‘new normal’ world of work.

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