With Gartner’s Catalyst 2011 conference in full swing this week (and attendees already nursing their hangovers), there are a lot of new product announcements in the identity market. Today, Ping Identity announced version 6.5 of their flagship PingFederate product.

OAuth 2.0 Support
PingFederate 6.5 provides support for OAuth 2.0, the first commercial support for this authorization standard. This means that mobile users will be able to securely access public or private cloud services using native mobile applications. The explosion of mobile devices we’re experiencing means an explosion of mobile applications – and these applications need a secure and user friendly way to connect to their back end servers in the enterprise and the cloud.

Until OAuth 2.0 came along, mobile applications needed to bring up a browser window for user input to access the cloud application. Native mobile applications that use OAuth 2.0 can work securely with their cloud application servers without a browser, so the user experience is much cleaner and easy to use. The mobile user first authenticates at their identity provider (for example your enterprise), which gives the application permission to access the user’s data.  PingFederate provides a security token to the mobile app so that when the user launches the app again, the service provider uses the token to authenticate and authorize the application without any input from the user.

Though the OAuth 2.0 standard isn’t quite finalized, everything’s done but some paperwork, and expectations are that this will be the way mobile app authentication and authorization will be done in the future.

CloudDesktop
A second major feature of PingFederate 6.5 is CloudDesktop. CloudDesktop is a web portal – a window – into a company’s PingFederate set of service provider connections. Why would this be useful? This portal makes it easy to share the company’s single sign on connections to internal applications and SaaS vendors with its partners. Ping Identity’s director of product marketing Julie Smith describes this as the “big fish / little fish” configuration.

For example, imagine the scenario of an auto company and its many dealerships. The auto company has a sophisticated IT division, and they use PingFederate to manage federated connections with many SaaS vendors and internal applications specific to the auto business supply chain. The dealerships, on the other hand, have little to no in-house IT and have a very difficult time managing access to these SaaS vendors the auto company requires.

CloudDesktop allows the auto company to provide a web portal of the connections it already has, for its dealers to use. This provides the dealers with a number of benefits. It gives them single sign-on to many applications – including internal corporate applications - for the first time. Instead of managing local accounts, they can use corporate credentials, or even external identity provider credentials like Google or Facebook if PingFederate is configured to support them. It simplifies the dealership’s desktops because most of their required apps are now in this portal, and the portal can be customized to present only the service providers the dealers need.

You can check out the full press release for all aspects of the announcement.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @shorinsean.