At this years "Dreamforce" - the yearly conference for customers, Ping Identity has announced a new product: PingConnect. This latest offering is an on-demand service for Internet single sign-on for SaaS (Software as a service) applications. In other words: a hosted, managed service that lets enterprises extend single sign-on to SaaS applications.

Software as a service is enjoying rapid growth as enterprises are outsourcing more applications away from their internal data centres and "into the cloud". Especially for small and medium enterprises with IT overstretched departments it is no longer feasible to run large enterprise packages internally. Salesforce has tapped into the CRM market with great success by offering a hosted CRM solution, and Google has signed up an impressive number of customers with hosted applications around messaging, calendar and collaboration. The SaaS market is hot, especially in times like these when companies are increasingly looking to cut costs but at the same time demand more from their IT departments.

Identity Management has always had its own special challenges for enterprises when applied to the SaaS model. Internal users need to be provisioned on the SaaS system, just like "at home" in the enterprise. Single sign-on also becomes challenging when applications are no longer hosted within the enterprise itself. These challenges have spawned off several solutions. One of the pioneers in this space was Sxip corporation, whose Sxip Access product was one of the first to offer federated provisioning and single sign-on for SaaS applications. Ping Identity acquired this technology in April and has quickly built it into its PingFederate product. Federation technology is used to "extend" an enterprise's identities outside the corporate walls, and SaaS and business process outsourcing is a high-growth market for Ping Identity: according to figures released to us, over 50% of Ping Identity's customers were using the company's products for this purpose.

So what about PingConnect? The new PingConnect offering is a completely different form factor and a new step for the company. Whilst Ping Identity has previously sold packaged software to enable federation, authentication and SaaS connectivity, the latest addition to the product portfolio is an on-demand service to enable single sign-on to Google Apps and Salesforce applications, and therefore allows Ping Identity to expand in a new direction outside of its traditional business of selling software. At this time, support is centered around and Google Apps only. This is quite typical for Ping Identity - the company tends to focus on a specific segment and does this very well. Once demand ramps up, the company then broadens the technology to address more customer demands.

As customers are increasingly buying into the software as a service (SaaS) model, single sign-on between the enterprise and those SaaS applications becomes important. Ping Identity has invested heavily into making this easy for its customers, and has just upped the ante again. If as an enterprise you're outsourcing applications, you might as well outsource the Internet single sign-on to them as well. By adding a new form factor to its offering, Ping Identity will be even better placed still to tap into this lucrative market.