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Okta targets cloud and mobile app adopters

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright February 7, 2014
Identity management vendor Okta finds its appeal is strongest among enterprises that are aggressively adopting cloud and mobile apps

Smartphone with cloud of application icons in consumer hand
It's a certain type of company that deals with a cloud-based identity management vendor like Okta.

Companies with old-school IT architectures don't face the problems that its customers typically face, explained Okta CEO Todd McKinnon during a visit to London last week:

"The architecture the world is moving away from — datacenter, offices, local area network ... — in that world, in a lot of cases, given the nature of the architecture, you didn't have to worry that much about identity management and security.

"For single sign-on, it used to be you'd have one black box and you'd sign into the application. Maybe you had to sign in a couple of times but it wasn't a big problem.

The companies that become Okta customers don't live in that world. Their staff are moving from desktops to mobile and back again, accessing various cloud and mobile applications as well as more traditional systems:

"Now you have to sign in on multiple devices, multiple times. It becomes intolerable."

This divide becomes most evident, he said, when working with a partner like enterprise collaboration vendor Jive. Many of Jive's customers install its software in the traditional model on their own in-house servers, while others opt for cloud deployment. Okta tends to succeed with the latter, said McKinnon:

"We do much better working with Jive when the customer we're working with is using the cloud deployment option rather than the on-premise deployment option."

Cloud-native partners

As a consequence, Okta more frequently works with cloud-native vendors such as online file collaboration vendor Box, said McKinnon:

"Being a cloud identity service, people are more likely to adopt a cloud identity service if they're using a cloud app."

"A big part of our go-to-market is through independent cloud vendors like Box."

Box was singled out for a mention in part because Greg Strickland, its VP global operations, was in the room at the time. But McKinnon also outlined a set of advantages that were specific to Box:

  • The number of users within an organization that touch the app.
  • The conversations that Box has with the company and the people they're talking to within the company. They're often people that have had some kind of experience with a Sharepoint server and have some kind of notion of working with directory services. So they know the problems that we solve.
  • Their decision to adopt Box usually comes because "the content they're working with is valuable." Therefore they have an incentive to secure access to the application.

Okta is building out its support for partners, having opened up its product as a platform so that partners can build integrations themselves rather than having to wait for Okta to do it for them.

As part of a broader push into larger enterprise accounts, Okta has also improved the way that it integrates to on-premise applications. In addition, it has introduced more ways to integrate to user directories, for example setting policies that govern how identities are synchronized between systems.

In keeping with the vendor's appeal to what VP EMEA Phil Turner described as its "very progressive, very open" customers, the most significant area of interest in 2014 will be on mobile, McKinnon told me:

"It's all about identity. Now with these enterprise mobile initiatives and bring-your-own-device, mobile is part of the story ...

"It's all about connecting people to what they're trying to do to get their jobs done."

Disclosure: Box is a diginomica partner.

Image credit: © Warakorn -

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