Okta® And Azure®

By Zach DeMeyer Posted August 3, 2019

The cloud identity and access management (IAM) space is certainly a volatile one, with many vendors striving to put their solution on top. As such, we often evaluate options on the market using a “versus” mindset. Take Okta® and Azure® for instance. While Okta may never fully compete with the Microsoft® cloud infrastructure/computing suite, it is certainly a force to be reckoned by Azure Active Directory®, Azure’s native IAM platform.

The Battle for IAM Supremacy

Both Okta and Azure are rapidly expanding their offering’s overall footprint. When it comes to IAM, however, the two camps have been locked in a fierce rivalry. In fact, for their 2016 Ignite Conference, Microsoft “disinvited” Okta, which is a Microsoft partner and customer, from attending the event. It wasn’t until Okta took the matter to the press that Microsoft recanted their “disinvitation.”

Clearly, the friction between Okta and Azure is real, but it’s best to understand the role each solution plays to fully understand the source of said friction.

What is Okta?

Okta is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-delivered solution that provides organizations with Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS). In essence, conventional IDaaS solutions like Okta use a preexisting user identity from an identity provider (IdP), such as Active Directory® or OpenLDAP™, and propagate it to the various web applications they use to do their jobs. Since solutions like Okta federate a single user identity to a host of web apps, they are also often called single sign-on (SSO) solutions.

What is Azure (and Azure Active Directory)?

Azure, as previously mentioned, is Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure and computing suite. Azure allows organizations to leverage cloud data centers to build, test, and deploy applications, among other functions. In order to manage users in the Azure platform, Microsoft instituted Azure Active Directory (AAD), which admins can use to manage user privileges and federate access to Azure-associated web applications—including Office 365™. In this regard, AAD is very similar to Okta, although Okta doesn’t manage as AAD does for Azure.

The Active Directory Issue

Both Okta and Azure Active Directory share one major shortcoming: neither of them are considered the “identity source of truth” in an organization. Each solution needs to be used on top of an identity provider (IdP), or directory service, which holds a database of users and provides their identities access to their IT resources. For many organizations, regardless of whether they are using Okta or AAD, this IdP has often been Microsoft Active Directory.

From the name alone, one would think that Azure Active Directory is a full extension of Active Directory to the Azure cloud. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Essentially, both Okta and Azure AD are more or less competing to be the solution of choice to be used on top of Active Directory.

Cloud Necessities

A core reason why IT organizations ponder between Okta and Azure Active Directory is the fact that they are both cloud IAM extensions. In today’s IT landscape, cloud usage is ballooning to epic proportions, so finding an IAM solution for cloud resources is near the top of the list for most IT admins. 

So, the Okta and Azure competition, while great for starting debates, has sparked other questions among IT admins. Namely, why pit two solutions against each other when there seems to be a deeper rooted problem? Both rely upon Active Directory, which is, for all intents and purposes, the opposite of cloud forward. So, why would IT organizations spend time evaluating Okta or Azure when they should maybe just reevaluate Active Directory as a whole?

An Answer from the Cloud

This question is the same one that we asked and subsequently answered when we created JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, the world’s first cloud directory service. JumpCloud is a complete reimagination of Active Directory for the modern era, and a more holistic approach to IAM as a whole. With JumpCloud, IT admins can manage their users and federate their access to systems (Mac®, Windows®, Linux®), applications and infrastructure (cloud and on-prem), networks, and more from a single cloud admin console.

Like with Active Directory, JumpCloud admins can manage their user and system groups at scale, using group policy object (GPO)-like capabilities to apply commands across entire fleets in an instant. JumpCloud also has a wide array of SSO integrations, and since it is platform-neutral, JumpCloud provides IT organizations with both efficiency and freedom of choice for end users and admins alike.

Try JumpCloud Free

Why debate Okta and Azure when you can simply try JumpCloud for free instead? A JumpCloud account requires no credit card and comes with ten users which you can use forever; simply sign up and get started for free. Would you like to learn more about our Directory-as-a-Service? Drop us a line and we’d be happy to help you.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a writer and researcher for JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, making music, and soccer.

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