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What is a SaaS Management Platform (SMP) – Why Should I Care?

Built-in SaaS Security Not Nearly Enough for O365 Safety

You’ve heard of SaaS, so I don’t have to spell out Software-as-a-Service. I’m sure you know what management, including software management, means. And, you likely work with all sorts of technology platforms. Put them all together, and you get SaaS Management Platform, which for the sake of brevity we will shorten to SMP for the remainder of this discussion.

Software management systems used to be discrete tools that took care of limited applications. Later, they grew into systems management solutions, which with a single interface took care of many software and IT infrastructure assets. Microsoft System Center is a great example. These system management tools handled largely on-premises bit of gear and software.

Now that on-premises software is giving way to cloud applications, SaaS, IT needs a new way to take charge. SaaS Management is the new buzzword, and Gartner believes these solutions are so critical and rich in capabilities that they are actual platforms.

Dictionary.com defines software platform as “a major piece of software, as an operating system, an operating environment, or a database, under which various smaller application programs can be designed to run.” In the case of SaaS, these cloud applications are managed by the SMP, and in a sense, run underneath or under control of the SMP.

Gartner coined the term “SaaS management platform” in late 2018 in the white paper, The SMP: A ‘Single Pane of Glass’ to Make SaaS Management More Secure, Streamlined & Cost-Effective.

The issue with software is that even the easiest applications to use can be a beast to manage. While the cloud relieves a lot of the on-premises IT burden, SaaS brings with it new things IT must worry about.

There are two core issues: one is that for near all SaaS solutions, management is an afterthought, and two, the ease of downloading a value of SaaS means there are hundreds, even thousands of these apps running around the typical enterprise.

The first count is where Gartner put its initial focus. “While SaaS applications have their own native management consoles, the depth of their capabilities often doesn’t completely meet enterprise requirements. SMPs provide additional capabilities to fill these gaps. Today, these products mostly focus on managing specific SaaS environments (e.g., Office 365),” Gartner explained.

While Gartner invented the category roughly a year and half ago, it has not stood still. In fact, the research giant now believes four key pillars are crucial to a good SMP solution, including:

  1. Spend Optimization
  2. Security & Governance
  3. Application Discovery, and
  4. Automated Provisioning and Deprovisioning (via workflow)

So what exactly is in an SMP? If you want to know precisely what an SMP SaaS management platform is, just look at what CoreView offers. There are six main categories of function: Administration, Role-Based Access Control, Policy Management, License Management, IT Workflow Automation, and Reporting. That fits CoreView to a T, except that we add Security and Compliance, Change Management (Application Adoption) Learning and Taxonomy as additional fundamental categories of function.

In the graphic below, you can see how Gartner defines an SMP, all of which are handled by CoreView, and on the right are the extra goodies CoreView brings to the party.

saas management platform definition

There is a real dollars and cents rationale for adopting an SMP. According to Gartner, by 2021, 75 percent of organizations that do not proactively manage their SaaS environments will spend 30 percent more on their deployments than their counterparts sticking with on-premises solutions.

Some cloud management tools are very broad, offering high level help with overall cloud workload usage data to track and manage cloud costs, as well as basic performance monitoring.

Instead of this skin-deep approach, the CoreView SMP is carefully focused on Office 365 and goes incredibly deep in managing and optimizing the Microsoft SaaS platform.

More Reasons SMPs Matter

As Gartner explained, native SaaS administration consoles, including the Office 365 Admin Center, have a plentiful supply of limitations. This forces admins to created complex scripts, PowerShell in the case of Office 365, which take a long time to write and run, and are terribly prone to error. This delays the rollout of new O365 services, limits the ability to manage the environment, and increases risk. All this erodes the value of the Office 365 solution you invested so much in.

Gartner argues that security, compliance and policy management are the biggest SaaS sources of IT pain.  While an SMP can help these areas, there is much more they can do. In the case of CoreView, we also deliver deep license savings and optimization, a single pane of glass to manage all services, forensic auditing to track and block breach sources, and workload analysis to help drive adoption.

Meanwhile, CoreView’s delegation and automation capabilities help IT administrators deliver superior service and support faster, with unparalleled efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Application Discovery

As with anything, IT cannot manage what it does not know it has. Nowhere is this more true than with SaaS. A big part of SMP benefits is finding SaaS apps, helping IT determine which are Shadow IT, and what to do about it.

Shadow IT sounds cool on the surface. Tech-savvy end users and departments discover hot cloud apps they love and put to work. However, there are security, cost and even productivity downsides. Cloud apps that are that good should be vetted, and if proven, approved and even made standard. Ones that do not meet this threshold have no place in the enterprise. Finding the right answer means discovering and analyzing these hidden apps.

Shadow IT is a very big deal. Did you know a Cisco survey of CIOs shows they had 15 times more cloud applications than expected? According to Gartner, Shadow IT represents 30 to 40 percent of IT spending in large enterprises.

Shadow IT causes all kinds of problems. It is a huge area of attack by hackers, and a vector for malware. Meanwhile, storage, file sharing and collaboration apps are all key sources of data leakage.

Shadow IT is clearly ripe for attack, as Gartner researchers predict that this year, 2020, one-third of all successful attacks on enterprises will be against Shadow IT resources.

CoreView Bought Alpin to Solve Shadow IT Problem

Last year, CoreView bought Alpin for its broad SaaS management and discovery ability. Alpin tracks more than 40,000 SaaS apps, using 13 discovery methods, giving IT a full picture of their SaaS environment. With Alpin discovery, you will:

  1. Gain visibility – view all SaaS applications in one dashboard, along with all their users.
  2. Work with the business – help business users choose the best solutions and use those apps to their full potential.
  3. Spot trends – see app growth among teams, departments, geographies and across the company.

How the CoreView SMP Helps

Learn more about Shadow IT and SaaS management with an Alpin demo, or visit the CoreView/Alpin web page.

Learn more from Alpin’s Shadow IT Problems  blog.

Get a FREE version of CoreView’s SMP with our new CoreDiscovery solution. You can get your free software now at the CoreDiscovery sign up page: https://www.coreview.com/core-discovery-sign-up/

You can also get a free CoreView Office 365 Health Check detailing license savings, state of application usage, and pinpointing security problems in your Office 365 environment.

See how CoreView can help you with this

Learn more about securing and optimizing your M365 and other SaaS applications.

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Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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