OpenID in the Enterprise SaaS market 1

by Eric Sachs

OpenID has historically been a technology targeted at consumer scenarios.  However, one of the markets with the largest use of OpenID is Enterprise software-as-a service (SaaS) applications.  Enterprises want to be able to manage their employee logins to the SaaS vendors that their company has subscribed to, and employees benefit from the single sign-on feature.  Historically only large Enterprise were able to benefit from this type of functionality because it required running a highly-reliable and secure “identity provider” using protocols like SAML.  However, now there are vendors who will run an “identity provider” as a cloud offering, just as there are cloud providers of email services, CRM, payroll management, etc.  Examples of cloud identity providers include MyOneLogin, Symplified, Ping Connect, and Google Apps.

Google Apps in particular provides a hosted “identity provider” to over 3 million businesses using OpenID.  Many Enterprise SaaS vendors, such as Zoho, realized that a large portion of their customer base were Google Apps customers, and added OpenID support for those Google Apps users.  Google has even created a Google Apps Marketplace to help its business customers find, try and deploy apps from SaaS vendors who support OpenID for Google Apps.  In the last 6 months more then 200 Enterprise SaaS vendors have signed up.  Many of these vendors have published stats about the success that they have had using this integration, and that has in turn attracted even more SaaS vendors including large ones such as Netsuite.  Google also leverages other identity standards such as OAuth to enable an Enterprise administrator to allow a SaaS vendor to access the data Google Apps hosts for that Enterprise.  For many vendors, implementing OpenID has been a stepping stone to deeper integration with Google applications, like Gmail, Docs, and Calendar, using our REST/OAuth based APIs.

Most of these SaaS vendors only support OpenID logins by Google Apps customers, but as other cloud e-mail providers and identity providers add OpenID support, it will be easy for these vendors to enable single sign-on for those enterprise customers as well.  In fact, many of these vendors also provide services to individual consumers, and a number of these vendors have built upon their initial success with OpenID by adding support for other consumer identity providers such as Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, etc.

The combination of the adoption of OpenID in the Enterprise SaaS market and the adoption in the consumer space has grown quickly in 2010, and we expect even faster growth in 2011.