SSO: Not Just for Security Anymore

Lori MacVittie サムネール
Lori MacVittie
Published August 06, 2015
mobile app explosion


That’s the number of business apps per device CA predicted would be deployed this year.

That’s probably a considerably conservative prediction given the explosive rate at which organizations are building and buying mobile apps. The impetus behind this massive mobile migration is a desirable surge in productivity. Migrating manual processes – inventories, checklists, guided processes, inspections, work orders – to mobile apps may not be as pretty as Angry or Flappy Birds but they do get business done efficiently. To wit, the Canvas 2015 survey found that among organizations tracking this efficiency “17% saved between $25,000-$100,000 annually switching to mobile apps, while 81% indicated cost savings between $1,000-$25,000.”

This seems a solid business case for moving ahead with mobilizing manual business processes ASAP.

But for every app there’s a complementary set of credentials. Credentials that must be managed, remembered, and entered for each and every app. And you know how difficult that can be at times, because when it comes to business operations’ apps, we’re all users. We’ve all opened that one app and sat staring at it, compelling it with a Jedi mind trick to jog our memories as to what password we used – only to remember that doesn’t work on androids (or iOS, for that matter).

How much time have we lost? Or, as the business finance folks might ask, how many dollars have we lost while you dug through those sticky notes (don’t look like that, you know you do it, too) trying to find the right one? You may recall an aging but still relevant Ponemon study determining that the average clinician (healthcare) spent eight to 15 minutes per day dealing with credentials. The study concluded that healthcare industries could potentially save $2.6M annually by implementing SSO and eliminating the need for clinicians to remember and enter their average 5.7 – 6.6 passwords and PINs.

That was in 2011 dollars and passwords. The growth of mobile and cloud-based applications (think Salesforce and Office365 and WebEx) since that time has no doubt raised the stakes.

SSO (Single Sign-On) as part of a overarching mobile and cloud strategy is critical to maintaining the cost-savings and gains in efficiency realized. But that means seeking out and finding an SSO solution capable of serving both on-premises and off (cloud), mobile and traditional web. By implementing a comprehensive SSO solution that incorporates all (or at least the most common) apps used on a regular basis, organizations can be confident in enjoying improved productivity and all its associated cost savings.

Enabling that confidence is why we ensure BIG-IP APM (Access Policy Manager) can extend SSO (via SAML) to client-based applications and other browser-less environments, like Microsoft Office 365 as well as simplifying secure mobile access authentication and authorization from iOS and Android devices. That BIG-IP APM can also federate identity to web-based applications like WebEx, too, is important to maximizing user productivity. 

I say that from the viewpoint of a user (in the business app sense, of course) that takes advantage of BIG-IP APM’s capabilities in this regard every day. There’s nothing more frustrating that realizing I have to use one of the few apps F5 hasn’t federated with BIG-IP APM because I know – with a certainty that would make Heisenberg rethink his theories – that I’m not going to remember the password and I’m going to have to take time (valuable time) to figure it out or enlist the help of someone else (and their valuable time) to get it reset so I can use the app. Using an app that is enabled with SSO through BIG-IP APM? Simplicity, dear Watson. The application experience is dramatically improved simply by federating that access and relieving the burden of managing fifteen different sets of credentials.

But it’s not just about improving the application experience for users, it’s also about streamlining operational experience, too. By using the same identity and access control services with BIG-IP APM for cloud, mobile and traditional web-based applications on and off-premises organizations can contain potential policy sprawl, variability, and complexity.

The most significant challenge identified in our latest State of Application Delivery survey in forging ahead with hybrid cloud is related to identity and access management. One of the ways to combat that challenge is to take advantage of an identity and access control service that can simultaneously provide SSO and federation for mobile and traditional web apps in the cloud and on-premises.