Our crack IT man, Daniel O'Hanlon, was struggling a few months ago. A lot of us at Index had moved over to Macs and iPhones, but he had built Index's entire identity and access management system around Microsoft Active Directory (AD). As is the case with so many IT shops out there, who have adopted Microsoft platforms as the "core" architecture, Daniel was feeling the pain of a changing world. The new IT environment was increasingly heterogeneous, filled with lots of non-Microsoft devices, OSs, and cloud services. Yet, the Microsoft tools – but especially AD - were based on a homogenous world, all Microsoft all the time.
Daniel needed a solution which let him protect his core investment in AD, yet let him manage all of the different systems that we kept adding to the Index toy box. He did a bit of research, came up with a few options and settled on the Centrify Suite to manage all of us non-Microsofties. He deployed it in a day and we got access to all of the goodies that had been (to date) only available to our colleagues on Microsoft Windows and Blackberry systems.
A few weeks later, he passingly mentioned this company – Centrify – to us and how happy he was about their products….
I found the problem that Centrify addressed quite universal. Almost every enterprise has heterogeneous IT systems. Of course, there is the age-old UNIX issue (developers are on UNIX, but IT wants to manage from a Microsoft perspective). Then, there is the ever-increasing number of business clients using Macs. Then, smartphone suddenly want access to all sorts of critical enterprise data: from emails, to servers, etc. Finally, here come the cloud services: Salesforce, Webex, Google Apps, Workday…. the list goes on. But, there are few things more precious to an IT manager than their AD implementation. No one messes with that. Centrify bridges the two.
Centrify was a company started by Tom Kemp seven years ago. His vision - enabling AD-based management of heterogeneous systems - was probably a bit ahead of its time in 2004. There was a small, but real market there with Unix system. Tom (who had been a public company executive and a founder at NetIQ) and his team built on that opportunity brick by brick. And, particularly in recent years, his vision has turned out to be spot on. Enterprise clients from every industry vertical are knocking on Centrify’s door to look for help in solving this problem. Disney, the US Army, Akamai, Verizon Wireless… all of them have turned to Centrify for help with this problem.
It turns out that “solving” the problem is a lot more complex than just giving external access to Active Directory. For most IT managers, this is a huge security risk (and, in light of recent security breach events, they are probably justified in their concerns). Centrify allows AD to stay nice and secure on the enterprise premise while providing access and authentication to a wide variety of services that reside outside the enterprise firewall. Years of experience and listening to customers has really honed Centrify’s approach to solving this problem.
We love businesses that have huge relevance today, but also solve even bigger problems in the future. Centrify is no baby start-up anymore. They are a profitable business with tens of millions in revenues. They have hit a nerve here and how with their AD extensions. But, we think the future is even brighter for them. The issue of professional identity will become increasingly relevant and critical for business in the future. There is no doubt that enterprises of all sizes and shapes will adopt cloud services. And, with Android and iOS rapidly encroaching on the Windows hegemony, we are going to see an explosion of non-Microsoft devices. Managing identity amidst this heterogeneity will occupy a hugely strategic place in the IT managers’ universe. This is right where Centrify is headed.
The Microsoft ecosystem theme is one that we like a lot at Index. While it’s all too fashionable to dismiss the importance of Microsoft platform in today’s heady technology climate, Windows, Office, Exchange, and other Microsoft products still represent the large majority of where business is conducted in the enterprise universe. It’s easy enough for a brand new start-up to run on Google Apps, but for normal businesses, extending the Microsoft ecosystem to embrace the web and the cloud is critical. This theme has led us to invest in terrific companies like Storsimple and Mimecast who have embraced the world as it is today and offered migration paths to businesses everywhere.
We are honored to join the Centrify team and look forward to helping Tom and his team achieve great things from their solid foundation.