Centrify CEO on Dropbox, KNOX, Microsoft, and the future of identity
When Centrify got its start in 2005, Windows PCs ruled, smartphones were rare, and the only real competition was happening on the server side, where Linux and UNIX variants battled against Windows. Centrify gave enterprises a way to manage user identities across these back-end systems using Microsoft Active Directory, which many companies were already using.
Things have changed dramatically since then, and Centrify has rolled with those changes, adding mobile management and a way to manage identity in cloud services. But the changes have also brought it new competition from cloud-based purists like Okta, as well as big new partners like Samsung, who are relying on Centrify to help power its upcoming KNOX security platform.
Today, Centrify is announcing a tie-up with Dropbox to provide single sign-on and tie into Samsung KNOX, so employees will be able to access a totally secure version of the Dropbox app in a special "work container" on their KNOX-enabled Android phone.
We caught up with Centrify CEO Tom Kemp last week to discuss the company's recent deals, the future of identity and mobile data security, and Centrify's future prospects.
Here are some highlights of our talk:
- Soon, we'll have to add another "BYO" to the list -- BYO Identity. "I think what's going to happen is this whole BYO thing will even include bring your own identity, where you're out of college, you get your Gmail account, and that's the primary account for all your jobs that you have as well....So when you show up for your first day of work, it's expected that you bring your own phone, bring your own Mac or laptop, Yahoo or Gmail or Outlook.com account, and the company doesn't give you anything, they just grant you access to cloud resources. Then if you need applications, it will be delivered via containers....Then when you leave, they'll remove the container with the applications, you retain the device, the phone or PC or Mac, and you retain the identity.
- Differences between Centrify and cloud-based vendors like Okta: He listed several, but the most interesting was Centrify's tighter integration with Active Directory. "Some of these vendors actually suck data out of Active Directory and create their own cloud directory. Some people are a little bit concerned or nervous about that today, as in do I want to put all my eggs in the one basket of a startup directory in the cloud? Or, do I want to leverage an existing infrastructure and technology that I already have, and have a third party cloud service provided an identity gateway or broker, as opposed to sucking all my data out of my directory and synchronizing it to something in the cloud?"
- Microsoft vs the MDM vendors: "[Microsoft's] Brad Anderson and his team are doing a great job of extending System Center to the cloud via InTune, and trying to go after the MDM vendors, and we'll let them fight those battles and we'll see if Microsoft can be a big player versus MobileIron and AirWatch. We don't want to be in that fight right there, part of the reason is a lot of it has been commoditized, but the real reason is that we're in a different market. We're an identity provider, we're not a device management [company]. Do we do some basic device stuff? Yeah, if no one has a solution and they want to ensure the security. But if someone does have a solution, we'll gladly say don't enable that, still leverage that zero sign-on from a mobile device."
- Possible next steps: Consumer identity and an IPO. "Could this technology that we offer for enterprise -- is there a consumer play for that? That could be a potential, especially as there's a blurring between consumer and business....Centrify is not a startup with 100 or 200 customers like some of the other vendors who we're starting to compete with. We're a pretty significant company, we have over 350 people, 4,000 customers, we're growing at a nice clip. So we're looking at how we can expand and starting to think how can we put ourselves in the position over the next year or so to potentially be a public company?"
Here's a transcript of the full interview, lightly edited for clarity and to eliminate some redundancies.
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