Corporate SaaS app stores ready to go? VMware Horizon App Manager

Does your company consume any SaaS apps, yet? We do. Due to the success of Softcat and the speed with which we have grown, we recently invested in a new HR system – somewhere to track holidays, expenses, training and development etc. It’s great – I now have zero need to use a pen in a work context at last (still have to use them to sign birthday cards, but that’s it!). Unfortunately, the usernames and passwords are not (yet!) aligned with our AD – so there is no single sign-on. Being the awkward ‘user’ that I am, I of course forgot my username…

So I was thinking about this in readiness for this post, and you know what? We already consume a load of SaaS apps that I hadn’t really thought about in those terms. In fact, this is one of my ‘pet hates’ for this industry. Every vendor we deal with – Microsoft, VMware, HP, EMC etc – has a portal, full of really useful information, tech specs, knowledge bases etc. Really handy – but each one requires a different login – and usually a different password policy. Needless to say, there is no identity integration for any of these, so it is a management nightmare.

Over time, I think we will see more and more of this stuff – portals masquerading as SaaS apps (hell, the VMware one is driven by Salesforce.com) and pure SaaS apps, as organisations pursue a hybrid strategy – a mixture of maintaining infrastructure and applications for core services, and bringing in services from outside where that makes more sense.

VMware have for some time been talking about ‘Project Horizon‘, which was planned to address these issues. Well, the first stage of this is now live, with the launch of VMware Horizon App Manager. HAM, as I’m sure it won’t be abbreviated to, extends your corporate identity into cloud services, enabling single-sign on to services such as salesforce.com, Webex etc.

The end goal here, I think, is a ‘corporate app store’, a self-service portal whereby users can gain access to apps hosted both on internal infrastructure and delivered from ‘the cloud’. IT will be responsible for a service catalogue from which the business can select the relevant applications for their needs. Wouldn’t this be better than running around with a CD installing stuff?

There are a few future developments planned already, listed in the press release. There are a few extra I would like to see:

Workflow for requesting applications including line-of-business sign-off.

Metering – who is using what apps? This is an element of Software Asset Management, really – making sure that the software (or Software as a Service!) you have paid for is being used.

Automated de-provisioning of accounts triggered by an HR process – this strikes me as really important in the world of ‘cloud’. If someone leaves your organisation, how do you make sure they don’t still have access to your SaaS apps?

I’m sure we’ll see a profusion of identity services in this space, and I look forward to the day of any app on any device: secured, managed and catalogued by IT…

More from the always-insightful Brian Madden here.

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