Are you looking for an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution? You’re spoiled for choices. With the IAM market expected to hit +$24 billion by 2025, vendors are eager to create Identity and Access Management solutions to meet modern security needs. In fact, there are well over a hundred Identity and Access Management solutions with market share.
With so many options available, how do you choose? What features should you prioritize? And why does it matter? Here’s a look at why IAM is crucial for digital transformation and key in today’s cloud-focused landscape with a list of the 10 superhero solutions that tick all the boxes.
Ready to know all about IAM and Identity and Access Management solutions? Skip straight to the list!
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the process of managing and governing roles, responsibilities, and access privileges for your users. These “users” could be customers, clients, employees, contractors, vendors, or any other individual/entity that touches your business systems. It’s easiest to think of IAM as the gatekeeper for your IT infrastructure. It ensures that the right users have access to the right applications at the right time and for the right reasons in a secure environment.
A core tenant of modern Identity and Access Management solutions is Zero Trust. Every user is tied directly to an identity with only the minimum access needed, which is closely monitored and reviewed based on “least privileged access.” The result is a high-security infrastructure that automates data protection and prevents data leakage, breaches, and loss.
So, what should you be looking for in an Identity and Access Management solution? What feature will this solution provide above and beyond the policies and out-of-the-box user permissions that come out-of-the-box with your packaged applications?
You might be thinking, every app comes with access controls and policies already, right? Why do I need to invest in an Identity and Access Management solution? Wouldn’t it be easier (and cheaper) to just have security teams manage users directly in each individual application?
In today’s world, organizations have hundreds of applications they are managing. The average business tech stack — which is knotted with various databases, SaaS solutions, servers, and legacy systems — is so large and burdening that siloed access management strategies would be a nightmare to manage. How do you ensure that every employee has access to only the right business information and activities across every app? How do you remain compliant in this multi-tiered cake of data systems? What strategies can you employ to create hyper-fortified application and data security without impacting the end-user?
These are the types of problems that properly implemented Identity and Access Management solutions solve. According to Verizon, 81% of successful breaches start with an identity takeover. Not only do you need to attach identities to users inside and outside of your organization, but you also need to effectively track those users and their activity across your sprawling IT ecosystem, recognizing threats and suspicious activities in real time. From security to compliance, privacy, and productivity, IAM plays a critical role in every business app, database, and enterprise system in your IT landscape.
Wondering how an investment in Identity and Access Management will pay off? Here are some statistics outlining the key benefits these solutions provide:
Clearly, securing and governing Identity and Access is a major concern for enterprise organizations.
Enterprises are spending trillions on cutting-edge applications to manage their business. But these solutions fail to validate what users do with this access across all of their systems in real-time. Investing in digital transformation and new applications without the proper IAM controls to secure the business critical data in those applications leaves companies at a massive risk of data breach, fraud or audit issues.. These risks leak revenue and productivity on the back-end due to improper access, control, and security — not to mention the administrative hours wasted on user scouting and policy attribution.
That’s where IAM comes into play. It patches security holes, upholds regulatory standards, and ensures business users can access applications when they need them. Additionally, IAM reshapes how you think about identity. Instead of access revolving around a single application, IAM gives each user a unique identity that can be tracked and manage across your IT stack and business processes.
The overall goal of IAM is to:
According to Forrester, Identity and Access Management solutions generate a significant ROI for enterprises by centralizing access controls, reducing threat vectors, auditing identities, generating paper trails, and assuring compliance. In fact, Forrester even goes so far as to say, “you can’t secure your enterprise without zero trust identities.”
While the goal of IAM is straightforward (i.e., right person, right information, right place, right time, right reasons), accomplishing this is tricky. IAM converges multiple disciplines, including:
So, there’s obvious complexity that comes with Identity and Access Management solution deployment. In fact, you’ll find an alphabet soup of tech acronyms (e.g., MFA, ML, AI, SSO, etc.) operating under the IAM umbrella, and it can be difficult to wade through the technology itself to discover the core value levers that you should seek. So, when it comes to features, think broad — not siloed.
Identity and Access Management solutions should (ideally) meet the following 7 core requirements:
Multi-solution approaches to IAM creates unnecessary effort and risk for IT, not to mention the drag on consumers and business users. Users demand easier digital experiences, which can often be hamstrung by ineffective authorization strategies. Threat actors are growing in skill, number, and bravery. Poor IAM controls can become an easy threat vector to exploit. Finally, regulatory pressure is at a boiling point — forcing organizations to better understand the context of privacy as it relates to data retention, deletion, and access.
Avoid tech stack creep. You want to kill many birds with one stone— not a patchwork of siloed solutions. Look for platforms that provide comprehensive access and privilege controls across all of your applications. This helps you keep and utilize data effectively, and it prevents you from impacting the end-user with an overabundance of cumbersome, identity-driven safeguards. This isn’t to say that your Identity and Access Management solution shouldn’t leverage integrations to create a more comprehensive architecture (the opposite is true), but you should be capable of enabling IAM controls from a single window pane. Plus, users should have one interface and log-in for all their app needs.
The larger your tech stack, the more complicated regulatory control becomes. Larger stacks also introduce more fail points for threat actors and customers.
Identity and Access Management solutions shouldn’t impact your productivity or limit your choice of business applications. Don’t embrace tools that only work with specific technologies. Vendor-agnostic, integration-friendly platforms prevent your Identity and Access Management solution from influencing your app selection process. In other words, the choice of sales, marketing, or productivity tech should come down to usability and enterprise-oriented needs — not whether your Identity and Access Management solution can integrate well to that application.
Look for seamless, cross-platform Identity and Access Management solutions. You want your security teams to quickly and easily discover issues and remediate risks. Simultaneously, you want Identity and Access Management solutions that can define roles and manage access without impacting the end-user with productivity drains. Look for convenience and ease-of-use for both identity teams and users.
Today’s world has shifted to a best-of-breed, work from anywhere model. Every Identity and Access Management solution, as a baseline, should offer layers of Single Sign-on (SSO) and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA). These features have mostly become table stakes. Leading Identity and Access Management solutions also provide workflow automation. Whether this is user reviews, provisioning, or compliance, you want event-driven automation baked into your solution. Otherwise, the administrative workload for a larger enterprise is staggering.
What are users doing with the permissions they are granted? Without context, IAM becomes a guessing game at best, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at worst. Don’t go in blind. Choose a solution that leverages analytics and lets you apply privileges with context — not guesses. Best of breed Identity and Access Management solutions should discover, aggregate, correlate and normalize disparate identities, access, and security models for you.
While establishing a robust identity management architecture can help prevent internal threats, you still need a boots-on-the-ground approach to monitoring common threat vectors. The truth is: most internal threats don’t happen overnight. Bad actors slowly experiment with more and more suspicious activity to see how far they can push the limits without detection. Remember, 50 percent of data breaches are caused by inside actors. Your Identity and Access Management solution should be capable of identifying risky behavior in real time, alerting on suspicious business activity, and stopping bad actors in their tracks.
In the past, organizations have relied on VPNs, firewalls and network protection as their safeguard against threats. As more and more applications have moved to the public cloud, these strategies no longer provide the protection they once did. Internal threats aren’t only real — they make up the bulk of breaches. Zero Trust eliminates network authentication as the primary access safeguard and applies access controls and identities to all users — regardless of where they are logging in from. The Zero Trust approach to IAM involves continuous adaptive identification and authentication that’s fluid, dynamic, and constantly monitored. Not only does Zero Trust use least privileged access controls and world-class provisioning frameworks, but this approach limits the ability bad actors have to move around in your network, should they find a way in. So, when users start to engage in suspicious activities (whether they have access or not), your solution should inherently limit the damage they can do with this potentially compromised access.
Let’s look at the 10 current market tools that best exemplify IAM in 2021. These are solutions that are holistic, comprehensive, and jam-packed with features to bring tangible value to your enterprise. Forget overhyped marketing or limited point solutions. These tools are the glue that keeps your business running.
Key takeaway: Pathlock’s multi-tiered approach to Zero Trust IAM provides a hyper-scalable and vendor-agnostic infrastructure for access governance, user activity monitoring, SoDs, data privacy, and more.
Pathlock is a market leader in the Zero Trust IAM space, securing access for hundreds of Fortune 2000 companies by monitoring millions of users and billions of transactions. With 4 levels of protection to choose from, Pathlock offers a wide range of value depending on your needs. Pathlock can manage user access and permissions across hundreds of applications, monitor for SoD or critical access conflicts, provide business context for policy violations, automate compliance with out-of-the-box policies (SOX, CCPA, GDPR, etc.), provide attribute-level fine grain provisioning, prevent fraud or data loss, automate deprovisioning, trigger access reviews or re-provisioning, and plenty more — customizable to how you need your Identity and Access Management solution to operate.
At its core, Pathlock enables a Zero Trust approach to Identity and Access Management. By tracking and monitoring both access and activity (e.g. configuration changes, field-level updates, and views/clicks), Pathlock makes it easy to embrace the least privilege model of access control by seeing exactly what permissions are actually used by each user and what they did with their permissions as well. Then, you can apply auto provisioning and out-of-the-box compliance policies to users automatically to reduce risk. Additionally, Pathlock offers compliant provisioning features, scalable user access review capabilities, emergency/temporary access management (EAM), automated reporting, and security features — which all tie back into user privileges and control.
What makes it special?
Pathlock makes it easy to apply Zero Trust IAM across your entire application infrastructure via a robust, vendor-agnostic integration network and a world-class identity and access management engine. By tracking each user and governing their access and behaviors, Pathlock can auto provision for least privileged access and quickly send out real-time alerts when users exhibit suspicious behavior. Pathlock is smart, feature-packed, and refreshingly modern.
Key takeaway: Oracle provides a wealth of tools for identity access management, compliance, and user access — as long as you commit to an Oracle-centric stack.
Oracle has long been a beacon of enterprise-grade applications, and the current Oracle ecosystem is full of value, capabilities, and merit. To get end-to-end Identity and Access Management solution from Oracle, you’ll be combining a few different tools. Namely:
Depending on your needs, you will likely require one or more of these tools to build out your IAM architecture. There are plenty of reasons to choose Oracle, especially if you are going all-in on an Oracle infrastructure. It supports both on-premise and cloud solutions, has robust permission control features, and (when combined with third-party integrations) can provide full-lifecycle IAM across your ecosystem.
However, it’s important to note that Oracle is heavily reliant on third-party apps for analytics and predictive risk alerts, and to get a full solution; you will need to invest in more than one Oracle solution — which carries a maintenance burden and higher price tag.
What makes it special?
If you are willing to commit fully to an Oracle stack, you can get virtually everything you need from an Identity and Access Management solution under one roof. Oracle has a sprawling network of tools that are plug-and-play within their ecosystem. And Oracle continues to provide top-notch customer service and support to its users.
Key takeaway: IBM offers a simple, well-executed solution that lacks some of the advanced features some enterprises may crave.
IBM Security Verify Access is IBM’s answer to IAM. Technically, Security Verify Access is on-premise-only (though you can deploy it to the cloud yourself via a Docker container) and lacks some of the deeper features of Identity and Access Management solutions like Oracle and Pathlock. Also, IBM Security Verify Access isn’t a Zero Trust tool (it doesn’t inherently drive you in that direction). It’s simply an access and privilege manager for your SaaS apps. In this limited context, it can be a powerful piece of technology.
Users will log into IBM directly with a single sign-in, see a list of accessible apps, and have the ability to browse a “catalog” (i.e., a list of apps that your business uses but they have yet to access). They can then send a detailed request asking to access an app, why they need it, and what they’ll use it for. Your security team can then verify them and give them access. So, there’s a layer of identity federation with single-sign-on and app management. Overall, IBM provides plenty of value to enterprises, though you may need to add tools to your stack for reporting, compliance, auditing, and SoDs.
What makes it special?
IBM Security Verify Access is a clean-cut, well-dressed app in the IAM space. It’s not an IDaaS, and it doesn’t come equipped with Zero Trust features, but it has just enough to help organizations begin their IAM journey.
Key takeaway: One of the most advanced IAM offerings on the market, if you can live without Zero Trust infrastructure.
Ping Identity is an enterprise-grade Identity and Access Management solution that offers a plethora of features and capabilities to help build a comprehensive IAM ecosystem. For a moment, let’s ignore that their Chief Identity Champion is Terry Crews (which is pretty awesome) and focus on the Identity and Access Management solution itself.
Ping has multi-factor authentication, single-sign-on, access controls, API-based security features, and data governance, which it can deploy across SaaS or on-premise apps. Better yet, Ping has AI that detects abnormal user behavior and quick policy implementation and control. In other words, it has most of the basics you would expect from an Identity and Access Management solution. Unfortunately, it lacks in some key areas like reporting, compliance, and SaaS provisioning for some of the most popular applications (reviews suggest that Ping can’t provision for O365).
While Ping Identity does integrate with Oracle, IBM, and Active Directory — which can help flesh out most of the missing capabilities (like reporting) — it’s a particularly tricky solution to implement, according to some reviewers. PCMag pans it for its unusual AD connects, which can create a single point of failure. However, correctly implementing the solution should circumvent that issue, especially if you’re integrating Ping with other IaaS solutions.
Overall, Ping is an industry-leading Identity and Access Management solution that offers a little of everything — though that may require integrations. Unfortunately, Ping only has one pricing tier (on a per-user basis) and can be a costly entry point for smaller enterprises (or those who are already leveraging other IAM solutions). Additionally, Ping is not a Zero Trust solution, so it lacks some of the more granular features offered by solutions like IBM and Pathlock.
What makes it special?
Besides Terry Crews? Ping offers great out-of-the-box password and identity management features, plenty of integrations, and top-notch self-service options. Plus, its predictive AI packs a mighty punch. But so does Terry Crews, which is obviously the real value of this Identity and Access Management solution.
Key takeaway: OneLogin offers a little of everything for a hyper-competitive price, but it may be better suited to smaller enterprises, as it lacks discovery-based automated setup features.
While OneLogin offers a swarm of password-centric and login-centric solutions to businesses of all sizes, they also have a semi-well-oiled enterprise platform (OneLogin Trusted Experience Platform™). With OneLogin, you’ll get the basics of IAM for an extremely reasonable price, including:
Unfortunately, OneLogin lacks some advanced out-of-the-box compliance, and the user interface lacks customization. Additionally, some reviewers suggest that it lacks APIs for setting up new connectors (that aren’t canned), forcing them to manually go in and set up new app connectors. This can make it tedious to manage groups and apply policies and controls. But it’s not a deal-breaker.
What makes it special?
OneLogin provides plenty of value in a neat package. Many users value that it doesn’t require users to log in multiple times a day, which many organizations crave as they make the ever-tricky security vs. usability tradeoff. Instant, real-time sync with directories also makes integration and maintenance easier, since it doesn’t have to be the main directory to keep its usability intact.
Key takeaway: A Zero Trust solution that has plenty to offer, despite its potentially confusing pricing structure and lack of out-of-the-box compliance features.
Originally a spin-off of Centrify, Idaptive was purchased by CyberArk in 2020. Like Pathlock, Idaptive prides itself on Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Zero Trust. In terms of capabilities, this is one of the most advanced solutions on the market. From baseline MFA and single sign-on to automated provisioning, least privileges, and endpoint security, Idaptive offers a tsunami-wave of features for enterprises.
Unfortunately, Idaptive lacks out-of-the-box compliance features, and it has a strange, tiered pricing feature. You pay for each module or feature. For a typical user, you will pay a fee for SSO, another fee for MFA, and another fee for lifecycle management. Basically, you have to add each feature separately, which increases your monthly bill. And that bill can get high compared to other offerings on this list. This aside, Idaptive is well-suited for enterprises and leverages cutting-edge techniques like Zero Trust and PAM.
What makes it special?
If you opt for the full package, Idaptive is a holistic, end-to-end identity management solution that grants access to cutting-edge Zero Trust and PAM capabilities. Additionally, we love that it offers multiple MFA options, and it has among the best predictive risk analytic engines on the market.
Key takeaway: Cisco ISE is a feature-rich staple in IAM, despite its lackluster interface.
As we round out the trifecta of plus-one-hundred-billion-dollar enterprise-centric companies (i.e., Oracle, IBM, and Cisco), we find that Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) offers a carefully orchestrated IAM stack, if you can get past the some of the commonly mentioned grips: a tedious interface, outdated admin panel, and lack of batch editing features.
We love that Cisco ISE has a single interface for centralized management. You can see access points, define groups, and apply policies and controls on the individual or group level — with baked-in integrations with leading identity repositories and directories (e.g., Active Directory, RADIUS, RSA, etc.) Included in ISE is TrustSec, which makes group-based policies incredibly easy to create, though it lacks some of the batch editing features you would find on comparably priced offerings.
Cisco is heavily focused on endpoints, so you can dig deep and create authorizations based on device type (which is great for remote environments). Unfortunately, the admin interface feels outdated, and many users complain that it’s difficult to navigate. Overall, Cisco ISE is a world-class Identity and Access Management solution, though it certainly lacks some of the Zero Trust features, and (for the price) the interface is certainly lacking.
What makes it special?
When it comes to endpoint detection and authorization, it’s hard to beat Cisco. It’s certainly flashed the cash on its back-end features, even if the front-end leaves some to be desired. While not a fully-fleshed Zero Trust solution, it does offer plenty of IAM features for the average enterprise.
Key takeaway: RSA has been providing end-to-end IAM value for decades, but a lack of mobile access may be a deal-breaker for remote security teams.
Despite RSA’s not-so-pretty past with security and encryption software, they’ve managed to build a robust Identity and Access Management solution that continues to remain viable and meaningful in a relatively packed market. For starters, RSA (like others on this list) provides both conditional-access and risk-based assessments across cloud, on-premise, and hybrid environments. But it also has some nifty quality-of-life features like passwordless access, auto-identity detection (which eliminates pesky prompts), and a massive (+500 apps) selection of certified integrations.
To get compliance features, you’ll have to onboard RSA® Identity Governance and Lifecycle, which integrates with SecureID to provide a more end-to-end solution. There are (of course) some cons. SecureID doesn’t provide MFA. Instead, it relies solely on tokens. For passwords, you’ll have to integrate other vendor solutions. It also lacks any biometric options, and many users suggest that it’s difficult to pull usage stats out of tokens. Also, you can’t access the administrative-side of SecureID on mobile, so that may be a pain for some remote-oriented security teams.
What makes it special?
RSA offers plenty of features, capabilities, and niche value adds (for example, it auto-detects user device capabilities to apply better experiences). While its lack of a mobile app for admins and its token-centric framework may not be ideal for everyone. Those that use RSA seldom complain.
Key takeaway: While SailPoint may lack MFA and SSO, it well makes up for it with hyper-intelligent AI and ML features that keep identity and ease-of-use front-and-center of your IAM playbook.
SailPoint Predictive Identity is a cloud-only SaaS Identity and Access Management solution that’s jam-packed with the features you need to effectively track, manage, provision, and control users, policies, and governance. SailPoint’s entire solution is built around, answering three questions:
To do this, they provide SoD, cloud-based governance, provisioning recommendations, access modeling (via machine learning), and automated provisioning features. While SailPoint may lack in MFA and SSO features, it drives value through lifecycle identity management that’s intuitive, semi-automated, and fully scalable. We love some of the tucked-away features hidden behind SailPoint’s robust architecture. For example, you can automate acceptance requests for low-impact app access (which is deemed low impact via ML, AI, and analytics). Most negative Gartner reviews tend to center around problematic implementations pointing to lacking API support and buggy connectors, while other review sites share concerns about customizability.
Overall, SailPoint is a well-oiled solution that’s more intelligent than many of the solutions being pumped out by more R&D-intensive companies.
What makes it special?
When it comes to brains, SailPoint offers plenty. It’s a smart, automation-centric Identity and Access Management solution that leverages the latest in AI and ML to create fantastic and quick-fire experiences for admins and users.
Key takeaway: Okta is a world-class IAM with Zero Trust principles and hyper-intelligent automation and workflows. While there are some nit-picky issues with the interface and MFA, it has carved out a reputation as a leader in the IAM space — despite the stiff competition.
Okta provides two Zero Trust identity management tools:
As the names suggest, each solution is catered towards a particular user type — with Customer Identity featuring softer controls and more customer-centric integrations. Like other names on this list, Okta provides MFA and SSO features. But it also springs some surprises, such as the ability to synch password changes by installing domain controllers on apps. Workforce Identity also comes pre-packaged with a directory service. So, you save on the costs of implementing an on-premise LDAP (if you weren’t already using another directory service).
Speaking of directory services, Okta lets you choose your primary directory. While it defaults to Okta, you can go in and change it, so that particular solutions (e.g., HR apps, marketing apps, etc.) become the primary. The SSO portal that Okta gives you is also cutting-edge. It’s highly customizable, and users can even create tabbed collections and log into apps automatically.
Overall, Okta provides a robust Identity and Access Management solution that makes orchestrating provisioning and user access flows easy, affordable, and convenient. There are (of course) some cons. Some reviewers ding Okta for only allowing phone-based MFA (which can be a pain when you’re without your device). Other reviewers dislike that Okta auto-adds apps to mobile devices and their SSO portal, which can only be removed by admins. According to these reviews, it can lead to clunky and cluttered interfaces.
What makes it special?
Okta is a customization-ready, feature-rich, and user-centric solution that makes IAM a snap. Despite limitations around usability, it provides a depth of features that keep users coming back to the platform.