As with all monolithic technology companies Microsoft has had its challenges embracing Cloud and making big strides there. While they have got their feet wet by releasing the Microsoft Azure Platform as both a Platform-as-a-Service(PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service(IaaS) offering, they still resonate more with the Private Cloud believers. (I firmly vouch my support a fully public cloud just like the energy grid).
Amongst all the hundreds of products Microsoft has, no two products fit in so well with the Cloud as Microsoft BizTalk and Microsoft Identity & Access Management (most widely known as Microsoft Active Directory). Both BizTalk and Active Directory have been unquestionable leaders in their respective space in solving the complex problem of Data Integration and Identity Management respectively. With the world of software becoming more of a niche solution SaaS/ Cloud Services market, if anything, those very problems of Data Integration and Identity Management has exacerbated. While other products Microsoft is trying to adapt to the world of Cloud are rapidly transitioning, these two, I feel, can really put Microsoft right in the thick of the Cloud movement and make them a critical cloud player.
Microsoft BizTalk started in the early days of B2B data interchange movement in the late 90s when XML was becoming the de-facto standard for sharing data. BizTalk became the torchbearer for SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and helped companies with complex data integration involving ERP, Manufacturing, Warehouse Management and Financials. The offering evolved over time to include a robust process orchestration framework and support for a large set of standards like EDI, SWIFT, Rosettanet. It could do all those over HTTP/HTTPS without needing expensive proprietary networks and do so across heterogeneous technologies. Look at the SaaS/Cloud landscape now. Almost every solution adoption essentially includes data integration to other SaaS/Cloud applications or on-premise solutions. With Microsoft not extending its pre-Cloud leadership into cloud small vendors like Boomi, Cast Iron Systems have been able to get some traction in the large data integration market. The IBM acquisition of Cast Iron further illustrates the critical nature data integration has assumed in the new Cloud-based scheme of things.
Microsoft Active Directory on the other hand has been synonymous with the whole Identity Management/Directory Services space – much like Band-Aid has been for adhesive bandages. Regulatory Mandates like SOX, PCI-DSS, Segregation of Duties have made Identity Management an imperative. Majority of the Global 5000 companies have Active Directory deployed to govern their Access and Identity Management across their global enterprise. With the ability to define Sites, Trees (cluster of sites) and Forests (cluster of trees) to model large hierarchical organizations into domains, sub-domains and assign and manage access policies. Although they started with Windows based networks, they eventually expanded to support Unix based platforms as well. Active Directory has prominently figured as a prime candidate in any/all Identity Management technology RFPs. In most cases, it has not been a question of if it was a good fit, it was more a question of if it affordable? Incidentally, that is one of the fundamental premise of most Cloud based offerings – taking solutions that were until now only affordable by large companies and making them available to small and medium businesses by leveraging economies of scale. With increasing number of Cloud based vendors supporting SAML/SPML based authentication/provisioning and allowing companies to centralize their authentication, extending their corporate Identity Management solution to incorporate Cloud based offerings. Without Microsoft eager to step in has allowed smaller companies like Symplified, Ping Identity, Conformity to position themselves as the leaders in this critical market.
So Microsoft – here is a market that is begging to be served and yours to lose. While you still have work to do to make your to Azure Platform, Business Applications, Office Suite widely adopted in Cloud, BizTalk and Active Directory are the need of the hour and are ready to go. So waste no more time – let them free and watch them soar in Cloud.