Today, Quest Software announced the launch of On Demand, a new software as a service platform that is the company's first launch since it left Dell's ownership in November. The platform, which will be showcased at this week's Microsoft Inspire conference in Washington, D.C., is designed to help administrators manage cloud-based workloads from Microsoft, such as Exchange Online, Skype for Business Online, and Office 365 through an intuitive graphical console.
This makes sense for Quest. As business customers continue to move more of their workloads to the cloud, traditional software developers have moved along with them -- or led the way. Through its Microsoft Platform Management unit, Quest has already been helping users of Microsoft's platform with their cloud ambitions, whether by helping them establish all public cloud infrastructures or by aiding enterprise customers build hybrid cloud environments to migrate from legacy, on-prem products to Redmond's Azure-hosted SaaS platform.
Quest is merely taking the next logical step by creating its own cloud-based Microsoft management tools and offering them as SaaS.
"On Demand is our new solutions that are a hundred percent born in the cloud," Michael Tweddle, president of Quest's MPM unit told IT Pro. "They're all hosted services running on Azure, and allow that part of our customer base that is transitioning to Office 365 to leverage software as a service to better manage and secure those those workloads."
Quest has plans for On Demand to eventually offer a single pane of glass for complete management of Microsoft's SaaS platform. The platform utilizes plugins, which will make it easy to add capabilities as they are developed.
"With this first release of On Demand, we're focused on two areas in particular," Brad Kirby, Quest's director or product management, said to IT Pro in a recent phone call. "One that we call Policy Management and the second one we're calling On Demand Recovery."
On Demand Policy Management basically eases the management of user permissions and the like through a UI. Among other things, it makes it easy to set up permissions that indicate which employees or departments can and cannot share documents outside of the organization, with a much finer granularity than is available through Microsoft's back ends.
"Normally that would have to be done through a tremendous amount of scripting in the Microsoft environment using PowerShell," he explained. "What we enable you to do is easily create a rule through a very simple interface, apply that to a group, and then the administrator can essentially walk away.
"Once those policies have been set, when users migrate between groups in the directory service, they will automatically receive the policy that's appropriate for that group."
Kirby pointed out that in situations where government or contractual compliance issues are involved, this will simplify the process of proving compliance.
"The policy management modules will document what policies are applied to individuals and what policies are applied to which group. For compliance purposes you can say, 'Look, we can demonstrate that these individuals, per the rules that have been set down by the company, are not able to transfer electronic documents to groups outside of their own or to organizations that are external to this particular company.'"
As the name implies, On Demand Recovery is for backup and recovery operations.
"We've had a long history as Quest of enabling customers to backup and recover their user accounts in Active Directory. It's a critical insurance policy, because if you have a problem with your on-premises Active Directory and users can't log-on to the environment, you can imagine the set of issues that that creates, particularly if it's users who are maybe using a trading application.
"We've taken that paradigm and extended it to Azure Active Directory, so that we can backup user groups and attributes in Azure Active Directory and restore them very rapidly."
Just as with the Policy Management module, On Demand Recovery is able to make some recoveries that are not possible using Microsoft's back ends.
"One of the things about Azure Active Directory that's kind of interesting is that if you create a group and that group gets deleted, you can't recover it -- there's not a facility to recover it through the admin portal. So, we enabled you to perform recovery activities that the Azure Active Directory native tools don't allow you to do.
"It's essentially an insurance policy for those individuals who are provisioning users in Azure AD for those office 365 accounts."
Again, Quest promises that Policy Management and Recovery are only the beginning of what On Demand will eventually offer.
"We're starting off with Policy Management and Recovery as our two initial modules," Kirby said, "but the intent is to drive additional modules into the platform over time, so that you have a full complement of Microsoft platform management served up through this On Demand software as a service environment. We can't get into a lot of detail, but two that we are definitely looking at is one around migration and then another one around audit.
"The primary point here is that we're not stopping with these two modules. We'll have a complete set of management offerings that gets delivered through this on-demand interface."