CRN Exclusive: Okta Extends Partner Program To Jump On Opportunity For Identity And Access Management In The Public Sector

Okta is teaming up with partners to take on the federal market, unveiling a targeted expansion of its partner ecosystem Wednesday to push its red-hot identity and access management solutions into the booming public sector security market.

The San Francisco-based startup has been on a roll in recent months, most recently landing $75 million in venture capital funding in September at a $1.2 billion valuation. Okta's platform focuses on identity and access management for cloud applications, but the startup has also expanded into mobile device management and two-factor authentication.

The company has been successful in most other markets historically, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Frederic Kerrest said, but the federal market has proved elusive. That trend started to shift in the past year, however, he said, as the public sector looks to adopt more cloud solutions in a secure way.

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"We just see a huge opportunity," Kerrest said. "We've seen a huge acceleration of business."

To help its partners capitalize on that opportunity, Okta has built its first federal-focused sales team, hiring five people so far this year, one of whom is focused on channel partners. The startup has also extended its Okta Authorized Service Provider Program, with new partners, training, professional services, sales and marketing support, and certifications aimed at the federal market.

The extended partner program already includes a "who's who" of federal systems integrator partners, including CDW, DLT, SHI, Accenture, Optiv Security, Deloitte and ICSynergy.

Okta has also already landed a listing on the FedRamp Marketplace In-Process list, as well as started working with the Department of Justice for an Agency Authority To Operate (ATO) in 2016.

"The response so far has been overwhelming," Kerrest said.

Partners are seeing that same opportunity. David Blankenhorn, chief technology officer at DLT Solutions, said the conversation has shifted in the past five years from cloud, to security, to how to acquire new technologies.

"All indicators that we are receiving from our customers is that cloud adoption will only continue to accelerate," Blankenhorn said. He said he "absolutely" sees the public sector more willing to adopt emerging security vendors, like Okta, to augment their existing investments. DLT promotes the benefits of both legacy and emerging technologies, he said.

In particular, the federal government is looking to invest in security after the federal Office of Personnel Management breach last summer, said DLT Chief Cybersecurity Technologist Don Maclean. DLT has launched a dedicated security division this year to capitalize on that opportunity.

"The OPM breach was a major watershed for federal cybersecurity," Maclean said. "This unfortunate event has a silver lining, in that it has brought unprecedented attention -- and budget money -- to cybersecurity. Consequently, agencies are looking to beef up their existing security programs, but also have budget and impetus to examine newer security technologies."

Driving that demand are a few key factors, Okta's Kerrest said: First, there has been a push for technology innovation by the public sector, as it realizes it is "behind the times when it comes to providing services." However, recent incidents such as the IRS hack and OPM breach have shown that those services need to also be secure, he said.

Second, Kerrest said, the federal government is pushing to embrace the cloud, a move that was pushed forward by the CIA adoption of Amazon Web Services. Finally, he said, there is a general recognition around the need for security driving demand.

"It looks like there's a tidal wave sitting behind it," Kerrest said.