Centrify provides key features to Samsung's new KNOX security system

Credit: Will Folsom via Flickr

Samsung's push for the enterprise market turned a new corner today with announcement of the company's KNOX platform. The platform is focused on creating dual-persona devices. One of the primary technologies that Samsung is using in KNOX is secure on-device containers that offer complete separation of user apps, settings, and content from business and enterprise apps provided by an employer as well as potentially sensitive business data.

One of the companies providing key functionality for KNOX is Centrify, which has a long history of solutions that help IT departments manage non-PC devices like Macs and Unix/Linux systems just as they do PCs via Microsoft's Active Directory. Although Centrify only introduced its Direct Control for Mobile service about a year ago, the company has leveraged its deep understanding of enterprise technologies to leapfrog past some of competitors in the mobile management space. The new Centrify for Mobile 2013, announced alongside KNOX at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, offers an impressive set of features that will be attractive to many IT professionals.

What's in Centrify for Mobile 2013?

The feature set of Centrify for Mobile includes many of the standard mobile management technologies like device and app management. It also includes enterprise identity management capabilities, advanced single sign-on for enterprise apps and systems and  container management -- all of which leverage Centrify's integration with Active Directory.

Centrify's big selling point for CIOs and IT managers is its integration with Active Directory. Centrify's Active Directory integration is actually a key reason that Samsung chose to partner with the company according to Injong Rhee Samsung's Senior Vice President, Global B2B Strategy and R&D and Samsung Mobile.

"The OEM and marketing partnership between Samsung and Centrify embeds Centrify's Active Directory-based mobile security and cloud identity technology on millions of Samsung Android devices. Samsung selected Centrify because they are experts in integrating Active Directory with data center, cloud and mobile resources, and also because they uniquely deliver both mobile authentication and AD-based policy management of virtual containers in a single solution."

This Active Directory integration has two major advantages: it leverages the existing infrastructure within an organization and it provides an easy and familiar framework for managing mobile technologies. Centrify's deep integration with Active Directory doesn't just mean that administrators can leverage user accounts and groups, though that is impressive, it also means that they can use native Active Directory tools like group policies to manage mobile devices as though they were PCs. That means that there is little learning curve, limited setup requirements, and support for various administrative roles and tasks based around existing workflows and policies.

Another related advantage is enterprise identity management. By integrating with Active Directory, Centrify streamlines mobile authentication and management controls for users. The same enterprise identity and credentials used to grant access to a user's PC, network file shares, enterprise applications, or company websites and cloud services now extend to mobile devices. That simplifies management and delivers a better user experience.

Thanks to that enterprise identity management, Centrify can populate secure container settings and load a container with managed apps using Active Directory group policies. It also enables secure single sign-on for apps that access enterprise data including a zero mobile sign-on feature that allows one-tap authentication.

The company offers an SDK that let's third party app creators, in-house enterprise app developers, and ISVs to build zero sign-on support into their apps. Several key business apps already make use of Centrify's SDK including Box, Catch, Dropbox, Webex, and Onvelope. Major cloud service providers, including Microsoft, also integrate with Centrify's zero sign-on architecture.

These features make it seamless for users to self-enroll their devices and move between secured enterprise and personal personas on a single device.

What Centrify brings to KNOX

With KNOX's focus on dual persona devices, Centrify's identity management, zero sign-on and group policy management of containers and other SAFE and KNOX management features are a natural fit for Samsung's enterprise vision. Centrify's SDK for developers is likely to become a key component of the KNOX platform. Samsung and its resellers are authorized under the partnership to sell Centrify mobile solutions. Although Centrify provides a full featured mobile management suite that includes traditional device and app management, customers can choose alternate mobile management solutions and still have access to zero sign-on and the Centrify SDK.

Beyond the technical additions that Centrify's partnership with Samsung enables, the partnership also enables an excellent marketing relationship. That Samsung's most popular devices will are supported by the KNOX platform may tip the scales in Samsung's favor when professionals are choosing an Android device. The secure boot and dual person approach will definitely appeal to IT leaders and the secure separation between work and personal apps and content will likely appeal to consumers as well. Centrify's deep Active Directory integration and the streamlined management that it offers will also appeal to IT.

Beyond Samsung

While the partnership with Samsung is quite the coup for Centrify, its important to keep in mind that the technologies that Centrify is bringing to the table aren't limited to just Samsung devices. Centrify for Mobile 2013 includes support for Android devices from other manufacturers as well as for iOS devices. That includes its zero sign-on model for apps (and the related SDK), secure container management, and device and app management. It also integrates fully with the company's broader range of solutions, all of which share the same Active Directory focus and integration. That means that an organization opting for Centrify's range of solutions can streamline management of systems across the board from mobile devices to web services and anything in between.

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