Sunday, May 22, 2011

User Centered Approach to Cloud Applications


The user-centered design (UCD) * software will make it possible to access Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services with only the aid of major Internet browsers. Such approach will enable organizations to centrally manage the provisioning of diverse applications, while applying open standards to security and to access controls.
The UCD software increases the security of using SaaS applications. Users will have a single login available across multiple devices, with self-service accesses to a corporate repository that offers industry standard SaaS applications. This grants access to multiple web applications such as SalesForce.com, Facebook, Google, WebEx and others.  With the evolution of cloud computing, hundreds of firms will offer off-the shelf SaaS applications.
At present the access to SaaS requires separate authorizations and software fixes for configuration alignment. That is hard to do, especially for integration with existing systems that already reside on private clouds or continue to operate as legacy applications. It is the purpose of UCUI software to manage such integration.
Users are also bringing diverse devices to the workplace. Systems managers must now manage multiple access protocols and conversion software to enable legacy devices to extract useful information from any SaaS offering. It is the purpose of the UCD software to accept a variety of protocols from all of the devices already in place.
The UCD is a hosted service that enables organizations to centrally manage the access as well as the usage of different SaaS applications in a seamless continuum. IT management can therefore extend the users’ enterprise identity from a private cloud to the public cloud while simplifying the processing of applications in real time. This is then supported by strong policy management on security restrictions as well as by consistent activity reporting.
The purpose of the UCD is to offer a single display for managing user access, identity and security across multiple business apps and multiple cloud environments. It is independent from the Microsoft Active Directory. This should be seen as an evolutionary step how to migrate from the proprietary Microsoft to an open source environment.
To assure security the user centric platform will have to implement the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) [see http://pstrassmann.blogspot.com/2011/05/secure-sign-on-for-web-based.html] and the Open Authentication (Oauth) [see http://pstrassmann.blogspot.com/2011/05/applying-open-authentication-oauth.html] .  
The UCD will ultimately bridge the gaps between the private DoD clouds and the public SaaS clouds.  The UCD can be then deployed in an evolutionary manner without time-consuming integration efforts while also reducing security risks from multiple access locations. Most importantly, the addition of SaaS services to the portfolio of DoD hosted applications will materially reduce DoD infrastructure costs at a time when budgets are shrinking.
SUMMARY
Today’s DoD workforce expects access to their data anytime from anywhere. Therefore the workforce will have to be turning to SaaS applications to meet rising needs and to cut operating costs.
An increased dependence on SaaS will have to be met by offerings available from commercial clouds that have been modified to meet DoD’s tight security requirements. With rising budget restraints this is the most effective path for migrating DoD systems to an increased reliance on cloud services.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-centered_design

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For comments please e-mail pstrassm@gmu.edu