One of the more problematic elements of building any application is managing end user identities. Writing the code to manage who gets to access any given application not only is time consuming; it doesn’t usually add much in the way of unique value to the application.
As an alternative to writing that code Salesforce.com this week announced the general availability of Salesforce Identity, a service for managing identity that developers can invoke via open APIs that support SAML, OAuth, OpenID Connect and SCIM industry standards.
According to Chuck Mortimore, vice president of product management of identity and security at Salesforce.com, centralizing identify services in the cloud make it a lot easier to not only develop applications, but also provision access. Ultimately, he says that should lead to a lot more usage of any given application.
Single sign-on and multi-factor authentication capabilities provided by Salesforce.com can take advantage of a cloud directory services that fully automated user profile management, workflows and the delegation of administration. A new Salesforce Identity Connect feature also enables integration with existing directory investments such as Active Directory.
That latter feature, says Mortimore, is going to be critical for IT organizations that have standardized on Active Directory within the enterprise, but are embracing other directories in the cloud as part of a general move to embrace software-as-a-service applications.
For Salesforce.com, the new identity service is a critical component of its campaign to attract developers to its cloud computing platform. By creating an environment where facilities such as Salesforce Identity are baked into the cloud Salesforce.com expects to see an increase in the number of applications running on top of its various cloud services.
In fact, gaining critical application mass in the cloud is crucial for Salesforce.com to be able to compete against rival cloud services providers such as Amazon Web Services over the long haul. Without enough applications Salesforce.com will find it challenging to compete against large cloud service providers that will be able to continuously cut pricing at the size of the cloud environment they are managing continues to scale.
For developers the whole issue will come down to which cloud environment has the richest integration ecosystem. After all, the more applications any given application is integrated with the more valuable it becomes. Of course, being on a platform that already supports the widely-used Salesforce.com customer relationship management (CRM) software doesn’t hurt either.