SysAdmins have crucial responsibilities. They must keep the network available, make sure servers are working, and enforce high security standards, while largely remaining invisible to the general workforce. If they fail badly, then entire business operations come to a halt, leading to serious repercussions.
In recent years, the job of SysAdmins has gotten more difficult, ramping up to unsustainable levels since COVID-19. Pervasive remote work now means that SysAdmins have to remotely manage a mix of BYOD and COPE devices, many of which are accessing unsecure WiFi and handling sensitive data. Cloud adoption now means they have to manage a mix of on-prem and SaaS apps, and all the access permissions those entail.
Additionally, they must manage device inventory, device security, data usage policies, patch management, and software updates, which are becoming more and more frequent. And on top of all that, they must monitor network, infrastructure, and application performance, across dynamic, hybrid environments - not to mention troubleshoot and resolve critical problems.
Many orgs are still using manual processes and legacy systems to manage all of the above. Inevitably, this leads to various issues relating to security and workforce productivity. This is why software vendors that can step in to help are so valuable. Vendors that help SysAdmins do their job efficiently, which has the knock-on effect of the entire workforce operating at maximal productivity.
MDM (Mobile Device Management) vendors were a godsend during the depths of the pandemic. For many SysAdmin teams, it was unviable to manage the fleet of devices while everyone was working from home. And for security reasons, there needed to be a quick shift from focusing security on the network to focusing security on users, devices, and data. MDMs enable SysAdmins to remotely preconfigure, install, update, and automate tasks on thousands of devices simultaneously, thus making IT operations far more scalable, secure, and compliant.
In this space we like Jamf, a MDM vendor that has dedicated itself to Apple devices only. The Apple ecosystem and devices are very different architecturally to Linux, Windows, and Android. Being a closed-end system and less compatible, it requires specialist knowledge to orchestrate IT administration and handle all the nuances that invariably pop up when managing Apple devices. Having 20 years of experience in being the only Apple focused MDM puts Jamf in an advantageous position. A key tailwind is the recent M1 chip that delivers superior performance per watt in laptops and iPads - now making the TCO case for having an Apple fleet very attractive.
SaaS-based IAM, PAM, and IGA vendors have also come to the rescue in the wake of COVID-19. Collectively, these solutions facilitate secure access to applications, manage permissions, and govern all identity-related administration. Remote work and the resulting organisational shake ups put tremendous strain on SysAdmins. They needed to provide to their workforce scalable and secure access while managing the changing roles throughout an org.
Okta is the number one name in this space. They are the gold standard when it comes to MFA and SSO, which became a no-brainer during the pandemic. Now they aim to apply their SaaS approach that made their IAM hugely successful, over to PAM and IGA and disrupt legacy incumbents like CyberArk and SailPoint. By having one of the most sophisticated security and policy engines around, and the ability to deliver frictionless workflows for SysAdmins and seamless experiences for end users, alike, we believe they can eventually dominate these areas of identity.
Lastly, we'll mention the growing importance of observability tools for SysAdmins. As the shift to the cloud for many orgs has been expedited, it has resulted in orders of magnitude more stuff to monitor. SysAdmins (and DevOps) need complete visibility in order to efficiently troubleshoot when things go wrong, and they need granularity so they understand where to fine-tune performance across infrastructure, networks, and applications. If they can't do these things then they lose to the competition.
In observability we like the future prospects of the indisputable leader, Datadog, that has pioneered the market. We also like Sumo Logic, which is a lower profile vendor, that has very similar breadth and quality to Datadog but its GTM has been lacking. Trends such as multi-cloud operations and increasing levels of abstractions make observability considerably more difficult. Hence, we view the space as prime for technically superior vendors like Datadog and Sumo Logic that have a broad set of BoB capabilities.
In short, it is complexity that is making SysAdmins' work much harder across the aforementioned areas. Companies that can help SysAdmins be more efficient, which in turn delivers workforce productivity, are going to be in secular demand during the next several years.
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Jamf Holding Corp: Apple Threat Misunderstanding (May 2021) - Free
Follow-Ups: Jamf Holdings (October 2021) - $50
Follow-Ups #2: Jamf Holding – Great Alpha From Market Misunderstanding (December 2021) - $50
Okta: Defining An Industry (March 2022) - Free
Superclouds, Part 2 (October 2022) - $50
Sumo Logic vs Datadog (May 2021) - $50
Datadog (November 2022) - $50
Tailored research - price negotiable