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Okta aims to make cloud identity secure for the enterprise

Cloud security may emerge as one of the killer apps. Okta believes it can make it more palatable for enterprise to embrace cloud services.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
2 min read
Todd McKinnon, CEO Okta
Todd McKinnon, CEO Okta

You may not yet be familiar with Okta, an on-demand identity and access management service company founded by former Salesforce.com executives and backed by big-time venture investors Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and Floodgate. But as cloud services continue to find their way into the enterprise, there is a good chance it will be noticed by companies that will have the need to support identity and access management across enterprise/cloud borders.

While this is an early market, the premise of Okta (and others such as Symplified) is that the next generation of IT infrastructure is being built in the cloud. This doesn't mean that enterprise applications are going away, rather that secure cross-border integration will become a top priority sooner rather than later.

I spoke with Okta CEO Todd McKinnon who told CNET that Okta is seeing rising demand for its service as several trends converge--cloud, mobility, and data access:

  • Companies are building IT from the cloud, stitching together multiple applications.
  • Mobility via multiple devices drives the need for security and authentication, especially when apps are behind the firewall.
  • Portals and data aggregation are finally becoming the norm--especially in the B2B world, requiring more attention be paid to who has access to what.

As these trends continue, hosted services become much more attractive as service providers can quickly add new data sources and connections that are applicable to their entire customer base.

What Okta does Okta

Okta has found that there are two immediate drivers for the adoption of their service: audit and compliance (often for Sarbox); and oversight into the adoption of applications--basically a centralized view of how and if people are using the apps.

According to McKinnon, the company initially thought that the people who were adopting cloud services would be the same ones who would buy the service. The initial go-to-market was predicated on being led by the SMB segment, which turned out to be wrong. It's been the big companies and enterprises adopting SaaS that were extremely interested in the application, which required the company to build out an enterprise sales team.

And it turns out that building a more traditional sales team is not that uncommon as consumer-ish apps find their way into enterprises--something that I also heard from Box CEO Aaron Levie back in January of this year.

The large enterprise is ultimately the battleground for the cloud. Services like Okta make it easier for big companies to feel comfortable creating what are effectively cloud services networks that span across their internal and external apps.

In my eyes, the more ways we can make the enterprise comfortable with the cloud, the more likely we'll see innovation in applications and infrastructure designs.