What is an MSP? A Managed Service Provider (MSP) describes a vendor in the IT services space that offers services to manage IT networks, generally, for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Modern SMBs are turning to MSPs because they often can’t access or can’t afford to manage IT resources in-house, so they are outsourcing.
With cross-platform system environments, web and on-prem applications, an array of storage solutions, and colocated networks, the thought of offloading such an IT environment to an MSP can be quite attractive for SMBs. As such, the MSP market is one of the fastest growing segments of the information technology services industry.
The challenge for IT organizations is to find the best MSP to suit their specific environment. Likewise, the challenge for MSPs is to streamline their services and to provide access to the right functionality for their customers. In either case, the root of these challenges is with identity management.
Traditional Identity Management Overview
Traditionally, IT organizations and MSPs alike have leveraged legacy identity management tools such as Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) to play the role of the core identity provider (IdP). AD is Microsoft’s on-prem directory services platform that is focused on managing Windows®-based users and IT resources.
Flashback to Y2K, around the time when AD was initially released, and most IT environments were on-prem and effectively revolved around the Windows operating system (OS). The dominance of the Windows OS made identity management relatively straightforward for most IT organizations. For the most part, IT admins and MSPs simply deployed AD and called it a day.
However, the IT landscape started to change after the turn of the century as a wide variety of “as-a-Service” solutions were delivered from “the Cloud” as it became known. New innovations such as web applications, cloud infrastructure, virtual storage solutions, and really the cloud in general couldn’t be managed directly with traditional AD tooling. Consequently, IT organizations and MSPs then required a variety of third-party add-on solutions (e.g., SSO, PIM, GADS, etc.) to extend AD user identities to cloud-based or otherwise non-Windows IT resources.