What Is Okta®?

By Zach DeMeyer Posted February 5, 2019

Okta SSO

With a stock price that has been swooning, many people are asking, what is Okta®? In short, Okta is a cloud-delivered web application single sign-on (SSO) company. The company has been dominating the first generation Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) space for a number of years now. But, in order to understand what Okta does, we need to step back and understand the entire identity and access management (IAM) landscape and the specific sub-market where Okta plays, web application SSO.

IDaaS Background

As computers started to be networked together and more IT resources emerged (i.e. file servers, client/server applications, etc.), IT organizations needed a way to centrally control who could access these IT resources. This process was called identity and access management, that is, ensuring that the right people could access the right resources. Largely, because the network was Windows-based and on-prem, Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) was utilized to perform this function.

Quickly, though, new types of IT resources emerged that couldn’t be handled seamlessly by AD. These resources included macOS® and Linux® systems, non-Windows based file servers, cloud infrastructure from AWS, WiFi, and web applications. In the face of these non-Windows and cloud-based resources, Active Directory was unable to provide the same seamless identity management that it could for on-prem, Windows resources.

SSO providers, like Okta and others, would emerge to focus on part of that problem: connecting users to their web applications. Okta would do that by creating a cloud-based service that integrated with Active Directory and extended AD credentials to their cloud service. For IT organizations, this enabled them to control not only their Windows-based resources with AD, but it also allowed them to handle web applications. Since Okta used AD credentials as a single source of truth, Okta, and solutions like it, became known as web application single sign-on, or Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS).

Challenges to IDaaS/Okta

More recently, the challenge facing first generation IDaaS solutions, like Okta, has become how to handle the growing number of resources that aren’t Windows based or exclusively web applications. This heterogeneous environment gives end users a wide range of choice but puts a strain on IT admins with AD and SSO.

As a result, many are opting to shift to a new cloud-based directory service rather than the on-prem identity provider, Active Directory. These organizations are also looking to include the ability to securely manage and connect users to systems, servers, web and on-prem applications, physical and virtual file servers, WiFi, and more. This concept results in a more holistic view, a next generation of Identity-as-a-Service.

Next Generation IDaaS

DaaS IDaaS SSO RADIUS JumpCloud

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service® is this next generation IDaaS, combining directory services, SSO, RADIUS, and more into one identity security/management solution. If you’d like to learn more about Directory-as-a-Service, please contact us or check out our YouTube channel. You can also try JumpCloud absolutely free, with ten users included to get you started.

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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