Cloud-Enabled Identity Management: Employees Are Consumers


By Brian Lillie (Part 1 of a 3-part series)

In the age of increased mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD), many enterprises are struggling with how to maintain the high levels of data security they are accustomed to.

In this three-part blog series, Equinix CIO Brian Lillie, discusses the evolving technology and changing workforce, and how Equinix is rethinking its processes and technology choices around a new approach to cloud-enabled identity management.


First of all, employees are consumers. We all consume. We go to work, earn money, and buy things. Apple, for example, has really consumerized IT-that’s an overused word but it’s true-people are living their digital lives at home online. They’re living their digital lives on a tablet or smartphone. So now employees want to bring their own devices to work.

As a company you can say your standard is Dell, and that may work for some people, but others, for instance in marketing, may say that Adobe Illustrator works better on a Mac, so they want to bring in a Mac.

Or we have techies that want a Linux desktop. They ask, “Why can’t I have this at work? I’ll be more productive.” So then we either have to come up with a dual boot image or really go out of our way to support them when they can probably support themselves better.

So this whole concept of BYOD has changed everything, and in my mind, it is a foregone conclusion.

Next, from their devices, whether they’re provided or BYOD, employees want to access apps that are inside the enterprise and apps that are in the cloud. And they want seamless access to apps no matter where they are, so mobility is just assumed.

I’m going to be working from Starbucks because I need that caffeine to pull that all-nighter. Or I’m going to be working from the baseball field because I’m also a coach (and I’ve seen my assistants working on their iPads on the bench).

Gartner issued a report called the “The New PC Era: The Personal Cloud.” It’s a very good piece, and one of the things discussed is “app-ification,” meaning that people are used to 30, 40, or 50 apps on their iPads. They get an app, and that app does a very particular thing. It does it really well, but it doesn’t do anything else. So our employees are wondering when enterprise software is going to start thinking like that.

Finally, the user experience is everything. Users want a touch screen. They want it simple, and they don’t want to have to read a manual. All of this is really because employees are consumers. And what Apple is doing is driving the UI across the slate of consumer devices, and it’s impacting how enterprise CIOs have to think about apps that we deploy.

If you have a young generation coming into the enterprise like we do and you put in front of them “big company software X”-I won’t say who-and they have to click nine screens to get down to the distributions on their finance PO or whatever, they’re going to revolt! They’re used to being able to do multiple things from one screen.

The best example of this was that I put on an innovation program at Stanford and brought in a professor working on the game-ification of IT, which is another consumer experience we’re trying to bring in. And he puts up this game screen, and it was hugely busy with data. He told us, there were 2000 API’s driving this screen, pumping real-time data.

The point is that we can’t design for the old generation. We have to design for the new. And the new generation likes that busy game screen where they see it all right there. It lets the brain do the filtering, and there’s less forcing users to drill through screens to do filtering. Users are smart enough and quick enough to do that themselves. So this is the new way we have to think about the employees we’re catering to.


In Part 2 of this series, Lillie will explore the security challenges that have arisen as a result of the evolving technologies and changing workforce.