8 players to watch in the emerging cloud single sign on market

All eyes this week are on cloud identity and access management services, with Salesforce’s entry to the market. The segment has been led by startups that noticed companies needed help managing the increasing number of cloud apps that workers are using. The new breed of cloud identity and access management services let end users log in once to access all their services and make it easy for IT to give and revoke permission to access cloud services.

stream of apps_0.jpgImage credit: Flickr/Phil Aaronson
Cloud identity and access management vendors hope to make it easier for end users to juggle the many apps they use at work.

It's already a crowded market, with both startups and old-school vendors getting into the mix. Here are eight emerging players to watch in this fast moving market segment:

OneLogin: OneLogin and Okta tend to top the list when I talk to analysts and businesses about cloud identity management. The company just scored a $13 million investment from The Social+Capital Partnership and Charles River Ventures. It also has some marquee customers, including Netflix, Pandora and AAA. It touts its free tier as an easy way for businesses to get started and try it out.

Okta: Okta also has big name investors and customers. It raised $27 million in September from Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital. Plus, it counts Groupon, LinkedIn and SAP among its customers.

Ping Identity: Not to be outdone, Ping scored a $44 million investment this summer. It says it has 900 customers, including Cisco, Comcast and Boeing. Ping differentiates itself from some of the other startups by offering single sign on for both cloud and on-premises apps.

Centrify: Centrify’s offering can also mange on-premises apps. Plus, it has offerings targeted to federal government users, so you know the company is security-focused. In addition, Centrify also has auditing features that could be appealing to businesses in highly regulated fields like finance and healthcare.

Symplified: These days, I hear Symplified mentioned behind OneLogin, Okta and Ping. It announced a $20 million investment from Ignition Partners, but that was back in January 2012. Still, its customers include BlueShield, HP and Qualcomm.

Bitium: Here’s one with a curious twist. Bitium is positioning itself as a single sign on provider for end users – not IT. So individual employees can sign up for Bitium, and then do things like grant and revoke access to apps for others. Bitium positions competitive offerings as giving IT the keys to what apps workers can use, at the expense of the user. IT departments won’t be happy to find out about this one.

Salesforce Identity: Just this week Salesforce launched its Identity product for general availability. Offered free to existing Salesforce customers, the service is a sure threat to the startups. The service has a range of solid capabilities and coming from Salesforce, there’s no need to worry about this provider going out of business.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory: Microsoft is already offering a basic single sign on service for cloud apps but plans to start delivering more bells and whistles later this year. Like Salesforce, it plans to offer the service for free. And like Salesforce, users don’t have to worry about the future of the service.

The market is early enough that analysts aren’t yet releasing market share reports so it’s hard to know who’s ahead of the pack. With so many players, there’s likely to be a shakeout. Some of the startups might get bought by larger IT vendors that want in on this space. To protect yourself in case of big changes at your vendor, make sure to stick with standards based tools. Also, think about the directory you connect to. Most of the vendors connect to Active Directory but they also let businesses create new directories hosted by the provider. Make sure you can transfer that just in case you need to jump ship.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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