Ethan Group eyes Australian cloud-authentication demand with white-label SafeNet tool


Vince Lee, ANZ regional director at SafeNet

Australian IT-services provider Ethan Group has become the first local cloud provider to offer cloud-based authentication based on new white-labelled cloud authentication tools from SafeNet.

Launched this week, the SafeNet Authentication Service has been designed as a standards-based authentication framework that uses support for SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and other standards to hook into popular cloud-based applications like Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.com. It also supports enterprise authentication frameworks like Active Directory and RADIUS, providing a bridge between cloud applications and corporate identity-management systems

Its design goal is to provide a centrally manageable point of control over user identity, thereby allowing organisations to control points of ingress from cloud-based applications. It supports a number of two-factor authentication schemes, among them hardware tokens and SMS.

Ethan Group’s decision to adopt the platform makes it one of the first Australian cloud service providers offering this type of federated cloud-access solution, which will support not only enterprise customers’ software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools but Ethan Group’s own Ethoria cloud services.

This is expected to give Ethan Group, like other service providers that may take on the SafeNet solution, momentum in cloud-hungry, security-sensitive markets like government and financial services – leading SafeNet’s ANZ regional director, Vince Lee, to declare “extremely strong” hopes for the Australian market.

“The indications that we’ve gotten already are huge,” he told CSO Australia. “This is something that, when we present it to service providers, they get very excited. They really are becoming the IT houses of tomorrow: rather than going out to buy servers and software, people are going out and searching for services that they can consume on the Web with minimal fuss.”

The ability to extend authentication to online cloud services will be a long-awaited boon for many enterprises, many of whom may have no idea to what extent their employees have privately adopted cloud solutions because there is no formal company policy to manage them.

A survey last year found that many users and managers still don’t realise they are using cloud solutions – and many of those that do, are bypassing the IT department to do so.

Ethan Group chose the SafeNet offering for its multi-tenant and multi-tier capabilities, CEO Paul Kawtal said in a statement, noting the importance of being able to offer a domestic authentication service: “We have customers such as government departments and large corporations who rely on us and put their trust in us as they evolve to the cloud,” he said.

“The ease with which cloud authentication can be set up and managed reduces operational and administrative costs compared with alternative solutions. And SafeNet’s ability to handle multiple subsections of the client’s environment presents the same flexibility to customers as it does to us.”

Commoditisation of far-reaching authentication tools that span the Web and enterprise systems reflects a growing push to bring cloud applications under the same authentication controls as enterprises have enforced for years, with varying degrees of success.

A surfeit of established standards, Lee says, has made such authentication more deliverable than ever. “The availability of protocols like SAML have made it much easier,” he explains. “Each of those cloud applications has their own little unique way to set themselves up, but what we have is a federated authentication out of the cloud. The nice thing is that you are actually in control of your own authentication.”

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