Tom Kemp's Centrify Blog

Delivering Active Directory-based Single Sign-on to Office 365

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It was neat to see at this week's Microsoft TechEd that Centrify announced our latest cloud service offering — Centrify for Office 365. Centrify for Office365 is an easy-to-deploy Microsoft Azure-based service that offers the industry's most comprehensive solution for Active Directory-based single sign-on, user provisioning and mobile management of Office 365. As part of this announcement we also announced Microsoft has evaluated Centrify for Office 365 across key user scenarios and has qualified it as a "Works with Office 365" solution, so also nice to get that validation from Microsoft itself. In this blog post I want to provide an overview of our solution for Office 365, and in future blog posts will drill down a bit more on how Centrify for Office 365 differs from what Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) provides vis a vis Office 365 single sign-on.

Office 365 Single Sign-On

Here is how I launch Office 365 when I am on a PC or Mac that does not have Outlook on it – via the MyCentrify portal

But first, for those who are not familiar with Office 365, just what is Office 365? Office 365 is a cloud-based service from Microsoft that refers to subscription plans that include access to Microsoft Office applications plus other productivity services such as Lync web conferencing and Exchange Online hosted email for business, and additional online storage with SkyDrive. Solutions such as the recently acquired Yammer and Skype are being integrated by Microsoft into Office 365.

So what is Centrify for Office 365? Centrify for Office 365 is an easy-to-deploy Azure-based service that offers the industry's most comprehensive solution for Active Directory-based single sign-on, user provisioning and mobile management. Net net Centrify enhances the Office 365 experience by:

  • Simplifying the deployment of federated identity (i.e. use your on-premise AD to get SSO to cloud-based Office 365)
  • Providing rich catalog of pre-integrated SaaS Apps such as Box, NetSuite, Dropbox, etc.
  • Delivering Zero Sign-on (ZSO) to rich mobile clients of Office 365 including Outlook on a PC, rich mobile apps on iOS, etc.

There are a number of benefits of the solution including:

  • Enhances your users' productivity with in effect "zero sign-on" (just launch app or browser and silently authenticate into Office 365)
  • Reduces helpdesk burden (no more lost or forgotten passwords) Improves security (no additional passwords that can be lost or stolen, single place to de-provision access, etc.)
  • Improves IT visibility and control (see who has access to Office 365, when they are logging in, etc.)
  • Reduce your compliance overhead (easy to report on access, etc.)
  • Leverages an existing infrastructure and skillsets (Active Directory)
  • Saves time and complexity by eliminating the need for ADFS (more on that below)
Centrify for Office 365

Lots of benefits!

Aha, you say, but doesn't Microsoft offer Active Directory-based SSO for Office 365? Yes, Microsoft supports the use of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) for federated identity management to Office 365. I will go into this in a bit more detail in comparing our offering to ADFS in future blog posts, but Centrify for Office 365 is a superior alternative to ADFS for the following reasons:

  • ADFS requires significant amount of servers both on-premise and in the DMZ (minimum of 4 servers) plus 3-5 days of setup while Centrify is a 5 minute install on a single Windows system inside the firewall
  • ADFS requires the cost and time to punch holes in firewalls and get certificates while Centrify has no such requirements
  • ADFS requires significant amount of configuration to support additional SaaS Apps with no end-user portal while Centrify supports 100s of SaaS apps out of the box as well as provides an easy-to-use portal and native mobile app to launch applications

The bottom line is that Centrify for Office 365 is drop dead easy to install, supports a multitude of rich mobile and PC clients as well as browsers, is a Microsoft validated solution, offers not only Office 365 support but 100s of other SaaS apps and does so from an elegant portal or via native mobile apps, and provides critical mobile management in conjunction with providing Office 365 identity management and federation.

Centrify for Office 365

One slide overview of our solution for Office 365 that summarizes our solution

Be sure to check out this video of Centrify for Office 365 in action:

I will close off this blog post by saying that Centrify for Office 365 is available today from Centrify and authorized partners worldwide. For organizations using Office 365 and less than two other SaaS applications, the solution is available at no charge. For organizations utilizing Centrify for more than three SaaS apps, the solution is priced at $4 per user per month, which includes technical support and access to feature updates. Download Centrify's free Office 365 single sign-on solution today at http://www.centrify.com/express/free.asp. More details to come in upcoming blogs!

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