Okta holds the key to future identity management

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Recently we were at an event of Okta, a fairly young company. With the rise of the cloud, this party saw a new role for access and identity management. The platform is, as it were, a very large cloud that integrates with almost all applications, so that users can log in from any device and the management is centralized. With this, Okta has found a new approach, Identity and access management as a Service (IDaaS), which is causing quite a stir.

IT suppliers regularly claim to be born in the cloud. With this statement, they actually mean that their technology was originally conceived and designed about ten years ago when the cloud was born. As a result, they do not use legacy systems. Sometimes this claim is justified, as is the case with Okta. The company has been in existence for ten years and has been working on the development of its ‘security cloud’ ever since. At the time, no one had foreseen that cloud computing would be one of the most important technologies by 2019.

Okta said he saw that there would be a cloud version for everything. At first mainly with cloud versions of applications, later the company also saw that Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service were becoming serious options. Therefore, the Okta platform was broadened, resulting in a security cloud that can handle almost any known and local IT solution. If you ask Okta to make this concrete, the company states that it has now passed the 6,000 integration mark.

Platform now embraces many services

For example, for AWS, the company has been working on a tight integration, making the product the Okta Identity Cloud the gateway to the Management Console and other services from the cloud provider. Users can then use their login details for Active Directory or the LDAP protocol, which they often already have. Instead of an AWS account with a user name and password, an employee can then use Single-Sign On (SSO) or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) once. It is the Identity Cloud that takes care of the communication between Active Directory or LDAP and the AWS Management Console. Okta thus eliminates the cumbersome process of having to log on to different AWS services with a user name and password over and over again. With SSO or MFA, an employee now ends up at one interface where he chooses his AWS account or role; the rest is automated.

Okta has now been able to simplify such processes for a variety of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services. The company has realized integrations for just about every widely embraced solution that we ask for: Workday, Akamai, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Box, Slack, HubSpot and VMware Workspace One are all examples of this. A number of projects have also been realized at a local level, with Afas and Exact as well-known business systems in our markets. However, Okta offers integrations for a variety of solutions, including security products and government systems.

Open platform is the basis of integrations

In order to achieve such a high level of integration, support and compatibility, Okta has chosen to create an open platform. On this so-called Integration Network, integrations can be built, maintained and shared. The latter is by crossing the limit of 6,000, which is the most common. Often, some things have already been built that organizations can handle. An IT supplier (e.g. Citrix) usually takes the lead in building something, as the customers of IT suppliers notice that their customers use Okta. This is quite plausible when you consider that Okta now has hundreds of millions of users.

However, it is possible that an organization uses an application that is not part of the Integration Network. In these situations, Okta has wizards and templates available to customize the application. One method is a bit easier than the other, because it also has to take into account app-specific requirements, and integration is desired. A good example of this is Office 365, where Powershell commands must first be executed to achieve integration. This is because of the way Office 365 has been designed. And so there are many scenarios that can make the work more difficult. Sometimes an application programming interface (API) of another application on a completely different platform has to be called on in order to achieve the desired result, which is also a difficult process.

Incidentally, Okta could not simplify such processes, as the architecture of some solutions does not allow this. However, Okta’s development team can provide support in realizing nonexistent integrations.

IDaaS changes traditional way of working

In principle, Okta promises that there are almost always integrations to be achieved, even if that process is sometimes difficult. This is also the cause of the company’s growth. The approach has changed access and identity management. Okta offers a single platform for the identity management of many IT solutions, while at first identity was mainly part of each individual platform. Microsoft’s Active Directory focused primarily on solutions from the Redmond-based company, although the integration of this service is continuing. Initially, the focus of the Oracle identity solution was on its own products, but now Oracle Identity Cloud Service also supports SAP solutions, for example.

The coming period is important to prove potential

The general change in the IT landscape and that of identity management are thus visible in several ways. When CEO Todd McKinnon was founded, he thought of a ‘cloud version for everything’. This line of reasoning seems a little less crazy now than it was when the company was founded, but it is still the case that on-premise plays a significant role in the IT management of many companies. People are aware of this. Meanwhile, the company is more cautious in making such statements and is more likely to think of on-premise infrastructure and apps that will continue to exist for years to come, with certain sectors in particular continuing to prefer the option.

Okta, therefore, thinks that currently, about 20 percent of all IT has migrated to the cloud. This, in turn, would go hand in hand with the company’s potential: the more cloud is embraced, the more access and identity management is left to Okta. Thus, the percentage ensures that Okta still sees itself as a company at the beginning of a revolution.

To unleash its true potential, the company will continue to expand its platform and receive new integrations with open arms. Some progress has been made in the recent period, but there is always room for improvement. We are therefore curious what Okta is going to come up with, in the coming period.