What in the world is identity management, and why do the customers of UnboundID (www.unboundid.com), based in Austin, care about such things? We caught up with Andy Land, VP of Marketing of the company, tells us why the ability to scale to hundreds of millions of users is important to their customers. UnboundID is backed by OpenView Partners and Silverton.
What does UnboundID provide?
Andy Land: At its simplest, it's following the trend of Facebook and Google making money off our data, and giving your data to advertisers. We're an infrastructure software company that is in the business of helping other folks, like telcos, financial services companies, big SaaS companies, manage their customer data, but in a way that secures and enhances privacy. At the core of our vision, we believe in the identity economy, meaning that we all have personal data that has value to us, and has value to the businesses we interact with. Over time, that there's an exchange network where that data is moved around between you and those businesses, valued, and traded. We're building the software to help make that possible. We've been doing that for around five years, and came out of Sun Microsystems, where we were working on identity management. What we saw there was we saw lots of identity management systems in corporate systems, but no one was using it to manage consumer data, and no one was trying to figure that out. What we saw was that for telcos, financial services companies, and others, their data had become very valuable, and they were banking their entire existence off that data. So, about five years ago, we decided to develop our enterprise software, with super high scale, around consumer identity. We sell to large scale companies that deal with millions of external users, such as the big telcos. Our smallest customer has a minimum of 40 million subscribers, and we've built software to deal with that kind of scale and complexity.
What's this new product you're working on, and why is it important to your customers?
Andy Land: We've always been B2B2C. We sell to big companies, service providers, who then use our software to service consumers. The new platform takes that a step forward. There's a few things we've added, making it easier to use, to scale, and the ability to think of data in two categories. Those categories are fast data, and slow data. Fast data is what you need in real time, and slow data is the stuff that's not as fast. An example of fast data is real time delivery of targeted advertisements. It's got to happen immediately. If you go back to your database to make the transaction happen and it's not served up fast enough, that transaction doesn't occur.
What we did in the recent version of our platform, is make it easier for customers to divide up their data. We allow them to partition their data. We also added support for protocols beyond LDAP, which is an older protocol. It's very functional, but it just wasn't the way of the web world. They're really used to REST based APIs, so we added a full blown, identity access API, to make it easier for developers with applications to get to that identity data, without having to learn a new protocol. It's a protocol they understand, because they all understand REST based APIs. We're trying to make it easier for applications to use our data platform. What customers are trying to do, is take that identity data, and build one holistic, centralized data platform for their applications and services, which every application can access. That's nirvana, but no one is going to get there overnight. That's where we want to go.
Was it difficult to apply a lot of these technologies--originally developed for maybe hundreds or thousands of users in an enterprise, and be able to scale out to the millions of users you mention?
Andy Land: Yes and no. As I mentioned we were guys at Sun who were building enterprise software, and had already built two generations of data infrastructure, for big telcos and big financial customers using that software the way we talked about. But, to your point, it was not architected for millions, it was architected for thousands. That was our thought process before leaving Sun, was we needed to figure out that problem. We left and started UnboundID to think about that big problem, and to be different that Oracle, IBM, and the other big guys who had built this thinking about enterprise. We had the opportunity to build a brand new, next generation database, with the whole idea to be able to scale to millions and hundreds of millions. Right now, our biggest opportunity is 150 million users. We had to think like that from the beginning.
What's the next thing on the horizon for you?
Andy Land: We're interested in two areas that customers are really pushing on. One, is that identity data has value, and how do you monetize that data? One aspect is to help them figure out the business case. On the other side, there's the technology inhibitor, which is privacy. There are rules about that in the U.S. and Canada, and those rules are different from Europe. That's an area we're spending a lot of time on right now, working on the privacy problem, and figuring out how to exchange data with the user in mind, with their consent, and also addressing regulation, telco regulations, and financial services regulations.