Okta Oktane22: CEO Todd McKinnon In ‘Battle’ Over Cloud Vendor Lock In

‘The battle now is between monolithic platforms that want to lock you in, or an innovative, open ecosystem that enables choice,’ Okta CEO Todd McKinnon says.

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon used his keynote address at his company’s annual conference to illustrate a battle in the world of cloud and security between the technology giants such as Microsoft and Oracle who sell suites of products and an ecosystem of smaller, highly integrated best-of-breed vendors.

Along with unveiling innovations in San Francisco-based Okta’s identity and access management (IAM) portfolio, McKinnon told Oktane22 attendees that he eventually wants software developers to use the Okta Integration Network (OIN) to gauge enterprise readiness and build better applications.

“The battle now is between monolithic platforms that want to lock you in, or an innovative, open ecosystem that enables choice,” McKinnon said.

He continued: “There are two different worldviews here. There’s the monolithic platform view that believes that lock-in is the only way to achieve integration and security versus a belief in an open ecosystem. And the future of the Okta Integration Network is a key to enabling this open ecosystem without compromising one iota, one morsel on choice or security.”

[RELATED: Okta Plans Improved Partner Program In 2023]

Along with advocating for more cooperation with Okta, McKinnon used his address at the 10th Oktane to paint his company as resistant to an uncertain economy because companies continue to adopt cloud computing, security tools and digital transformation.

“These three trends, they are our friends,” McKinnon said. “They will help us prosper in these times.”

He also unveiled the Customer Identity Cloud, a service built on technology from recent Okta acquisition Auth0 and meant for managing business customer authentication for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and improving customer registration and login on any device, stack or platform.

Customer Identity Cloud is available with capabilities for consumer applications coming by the end of the second quarter, according to the company.

McKinnon also detailed updates to the Okta Workforce Identity Cloud. Enhanced security checks for unmanaged devices and workflows security templates are generally available. Passkey management is in early access. Workflows connector builder and Okta FastPass with enhanced phishing resistance factors will be generally available in the first quarter, according to the company.

Okta identity governance is generally available in North America with global availability planned before the end of the year. Okta privileged access will enter early access in the second quarter and become generally available in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the company.

In detailing the Workforce Identity Cloud, McKinnon brought up a cyberattack his company faced earlier this year by Lapsus$, calling the attack “limited.” Okta’s response to the attack received criticism at the time.

“Earlier this year, I’m sure you remember, we had a security incident,” he said. “And while the technical impact of this was limited, we took this very seriously. And this drove massive change at our company. … We made a ton of changes to processes and communication. Some of the most interesting changes were around the product – product enhancements that help support managing a third party and their technology as if it were your own.”

Here’s what else McKinnon had to say.

Cloud, Security Growth Good For Okta

In our world, we’ve seen a steady progress of the secular trends that have powered our growth for many, many years.

And those are – everyone‘s heard of them in this room – it’s more and more cloud computing. Now cloud computing is the default choice of technology architecture.

And it’s security – as more things get done online and there‘s more information, the security risks and opportunities become bigger than ever. And we’re all trying to transform digitally, take advantage of all this technology to build stronger relationships with our customers and move our businesses forward.

These trends have been enduring and they will endure for many years into the future, but we‘re in a different time now. It’s a time of macroeconomic uncertainty. And everyone is scrutinizing purchases and scrutinizing every dollar and making sure it is spent on the most high-return activities. We‘re all doing this. Okta is doing this. Everyone’s doing this.

And here‘s the comforting thing. These three trends, they are our friends. They will help us prosper in these times. Because – what is cloud? It’s the ability to make the right capital investments and balance with the right operational investments and flexibly consume resources as you need them.

Security is evergreen. The cost of a breach in terms of regulatory oversight – or what it means for your reputational risk – doesn‘t change with an economic downturn. You have to invest in security and have a strong security posture no matter what.

And digital transformation, I‘m very passionate about this one. At Okta, we started in the last great recession – 2009.

So we learned firsthand how, in a time of economic uncertainty, how focusing your investments on innovative new digital transformation initiatives, you can leap forward and build something amazing while your competition or the rest of your industry may be hunkering down and too scared to take a risk and make an investment. And that‘s powerful.

Okta Battles Microsoft, IBM, Oracle Siloes

Before Okta, there was a different world. You could choose the cloud but choosing the cloud meant an identity silo in that application or service. And you had many of these as you tried to consume more cloud applications. And the identity platforms at the time were more about locking you into a platform on-premises.

The classic example is the Windows and the Microsoft ecosystem around Active Directory on-prem. But there‘s other examples too, with IBM and their services and platform and Oracle was the same way.

So that was a choice. You could choose the cloud and have these silos out there. Or you could choose a monolithic platform. But we saw a different world. Our goal was to connect everything because, fundamentally, we believed we could give you the best of both worlds.

We could give you security, choice and make sure that you had the best innovation in terms of the services and applications you used. … We wanted to unlock the choice for cloud. And this choice was possible for one simple reason, and that was because of our independence and our neutrality.

Independence and neutrality – it‘s a core focus of ours, and it’s very important. And our sole focus across the board was solving your identity management challenges, not locking you into some set of platforms and services. We wanted to give you a choice for everything.

And we do this through our Okta Integration Network. At the time, it was revolutionary. It seems commonplace now. We‘ve established this in the industry. But at the time, an out-of-the-box, pre-integrated identity stack that lets you choose any technology easily without relying too much on protocols and confusing proprietary methods – we gave you choice.

Customer Identity, Workforce Identity Clouds

We are bringing comprehensive coverage of identity with the unveiling of the Workforce Identity Cloud and the Customer Identity Cloud. The Workforce Identity Cloud is identity for employees, contractors and business partners. … Customer Identity Cloud, you‘ve used it In many cases, you probably don’t even know.

It‘s the Auth0 technology. And it’s identity for consumer apps and SaaS apps. If you’ve ever logged into Dick‘s Sporting Goods, you’ve used the Customer Identity Cloud. And we‘ve focused on these use cases with two clouds, each with specific dedicated teams building the exact requirements for each of these markets.

And that‘s because the audiences and the use cases are distinct. While they’re distinct, these two clouds sit atop the Okta identity platform … an interoperability layer across our clouds. The strategy – and the goal here is very clear – it‘s not to merge these two clouds together.

Rather, it‘s to have them each be best-in-class and then deliver these high-value integrations across them both only where it makes sense for all of your teams. So what you need to do is create incredible digital experiences for your customers or empower your workforce.

Our two clouds and platform are purpose built to get your teams there. So Okta’s journey to building a world where identity belongs to you started with the Workforce Identity Cloud and its core role to help you adopt more and more technology.

And that‘s a daunting challenge. If you consider even a two-person company, simplest company in the world, that company probably has more than 10 tech vendors.

If you consider their phones and their simple applications for collaboration and their computers, their networking equipment, as that company grows and flourishes, it even gets more complex. … And these platforms, they become silos themselves.

And as you know, silos are problems. And not only is this complex enough … it‘s boundaryless. Any company you want to do business with, it has people, devices and resources, and they must work as seamlessly and securely as your own people, devices and resources. … You need a boundaryless Workforce Identity Cloud.

Lapsus$ Attack Lessons

Your Workforce Identity Cloud has to support this environment for every type of worker on every device they use, every technology across partners and third parties and beyond. (It) has to work for everyone, but not just anyone.

And nobody understands the implications of this better than we do here at Okta. Earlier this year, I‘m sure you remember, we had a security incident. And while the technical impact of this was limited, we took this very seriously.

And this drove massive change at our company. We published and shared with all of you our security action plan. … I‘m happy to report that we finished this and checked off every commitment there early in October.

And there were many great things. We are a learning company. We embrace growth and change and getting better going forward. And we learned a ton.

We made a ton of changes to processes and communication. Some of the most interesting changes were around the product – product enhancements that help support managing a third party and their technology as if it were your own. Because really it is. There is no boundary in this world.

So Okta is stronger because of this, and so is the Workforce Identity Cloud.

Okta Invests In R&D

Identity is a complex domain, and you need a partner that understands it and is focused on it that can help you navigate this complexity.

That means one place for roadmaps. One place to collaborate with the customers on vision and what‘s the right view of the future. … One sales team to help you buy more products, hopefully. And one set of support offerings across both use cases.

So there‘s a lot of synergies by having one company. But it has to all be built on this foundation of reliability. Four nines (99.99 percent availability), it’s just table stakes. And we‘re striving for even much higher than that. … In fact, we’ve spent over $700 million dollars of R&D (research and development) in the last 18 months since we acquired Auth0 toward this important goal.

But what really makes these two clouds special is what‘s underneath. And that’s the Okta identity platform. It‘s the layer of interoperability that underpins both clouds. And it focuses on automation, integration and security.

And we have a long-term vision for this platform. And our R&D teams are hard at work on it. It‘ll roll out over the next few years, and I’m excited to show you a glimpse into our thinking today.

A great example is the Workflows platform service. The value of no-code automation and what it delivers, it can be useful across both clouds. Many of you use it for the Workforce Identity Cloud. … It can apply to the Customer Identity Cloud as well. … Another example of a capability of the Okta identity platform is risk signal sharing.

Both of our clouds rely on risk signals … but they both share a common reliance on data. And combining this data together makes each cloud more powerful.

So risk signals and capabilities on one cloud and that data can be shared and used to protect the other cloud and vice versa. This is a data network effect that makes everyone stronger.

And we have a lot of data. With over 50 billion events per month across 100 different types of risk signals, this is a powerful, powerful way to make both clouds more secure.

So while these examples are very valuable, and over the next few years we will implement many more capabilities of the Okta identity platform, I think the greatest multiplying effect for our two clouds is what we can do with our vision for the Okta Integration Network.

The Battle In Cloud

The Okta Integration Network, it‘s the core innovation that enables choice. And this is our fundamental guiding principle.

Earlier in our journey, we talked about how the Okta Integration Network enabled your choice for the cloud in a way that was as manageable and secure as if you were running software on your own network.

But now, we all know this, the center of gravity has shifted. And everyone is cloud by default. And there‘s a different battle now. The battle now is between monolithic platforms that want to lock you in or an innovative, open ecosystem that enables choice.

Our worldview, it‘s very clear. We are technology enthusiasts. And we believe that with all the innovation potential out there, the best is yet to come. And we believe you can have both. You can get the best technology in the world, the most innovation, without compromising anything on security.

And just like the Okta Integration Network, it made choice possible by enabling workforce customers to integrate with cloud applications, we can empower SaaS builders to innovate with a brand new version of the Okta Integration Network.

And that‘s because there’s a world full of these SaaS builders. … And they‘re focused on that 10 times X innovation breakthrough that will make you all more productive and more secure. That’s the potential. And we can connect that innovation with all the customers that need it, but also want it to be secure, compliant and manageable.

The Okta Integration Network can unlock all of this innovation by bridging the world of workforce customers with SaaS builders. Because what‘s holding back innovation in our ecosystem is the lack of secure, compliant enterprise readiness. … This is a fight for the future of innovation. And this new version of the Okta Integration Network, it starts with new types of integrations meant to solve the problems of today and tomorrow.

A New Okta Integration Network

This new Okta Integration Network will move everyone on this journey together – not just one person, not just one vendor, not just one SaaS builder. But we can all get there together. That‘s the potential.

It‘s only going to work if it has clear benefits to both workforce customers and to SaaS builders. Everyone has to benefit for us to get there as an ecosystem.

So here‘s the benefit to workforce customers. The standards that unlock identity-powered zero trust security, that’s potential. We can unlock that dream everyone has.

We can have security, fine-grained authorization, identity governance. It can snap together for any app in the ecosystem you want to use right out of the box. Amazing potential for workforce customers. We’re all struggling with this.

But it‘s also great for SaaS builders. What do they want? First of all, they want to know what the bar is. Everyone wants to know what the goal is. They want to know what enterprise-ready looks like. And they want to implement it fast. They want to implement it fast, and they want to maintain it easily.

They want to get credit for it. They want to stand out from their competition. They want their work showcased in this new version of the Okta Integration Network. And they want this all without spending one single calorie on it.

So our vision here is very clear. SaaS builders, they can get all of this simply by using the Customer Identity Cloud. And with more SaaS builders using the Customer Identity Cloud, the Okta Integration Network gets stronger and stronger.

And over time, there will be thousands and thousands of apps in the Okta Integration Network that are built on the Customer Identity Cloud, reaching tens of thousands of workforce customers and beyond. So even more so than it is today, the Okta Integration Network becomes a powerful hub for data and insights.

Free Enterprise Connection For SaaS Builders

The goal is that every SaaS builder in the world uses the Customer Identity Cloud. And as we talked about, the problem today is that the majority of them are doing it (identity) themselves. And that has to change.

So we have to stick to the basics. … So we have to build a great Customer Identity Cloud that they want to use that‘s better than building it themselves. … From a pricing perspective, starting today, SaaS builders who use the Customer Identity Cloud, they will get the Okta enterprise connection free for all those using enterprise or the B2B (business-to-business) self-service plans. … It removes friction.

And it makes it easier for SaaS builders to get value with free federation with every Okta workforce customer in the entire world. More value for the builder. More help getting them enterprise ready. And the flywheel starts to spin.

So eventually, all SaaS builders, all they‘ll need to do is simply use the Customer Identity Cloud and it will solve all of these problems. We’re not quite there yet. But when we‘re done, they’ll just use the Customer Identity Cloud and all their enterprise-readiness problems will be solved.

As we make progress though, we can do something very simple but valuable. We can give them a blueprint as to what enterprise readiness looks like. We have a lot of insights – 16,000-plus customers, 7,000 integrations and growing. We know what the requirements are.

Enhancing Auth0 For Startups

We‘re enhancing the Auth0 for Startups program to greatly expand its reach. This program has already been an amazing success with 1,200 startups helped over the lifetime and 300 SaaS builders helped in this program this year alone. So we’re raising the level of funding which makes you qualify for this up to $5 million.

And if you‘re under $5 million venture or $5 million of funding raised, you can get the Customer Identity Cloud for free. Stop building, stop doing work on undifferentiated identity capabilities. Get the enterprise readiness path. And you can get that off for free by using the Customer Identity Cloud. That is cool.

Startups are important, but it‘s not just startups that need to innovate. We all feel the pressure here. … You have to innovate and change or you’ll be left behind. So it should be clear that we believe in innovation for everyone.

That‘s because there are two different worldviews here. There’s the monolithic platform view that believes that lock-in is the only way to achieve integration and security versus a belief in an open ecosystem. And the future of the Okta Integration Network is a key to enabling this open ecosystem without compromising one iota, one morsel on choice or security.

And this view of the world, it‘s aligned with our vision to free everyone to safely use any technology. … And identity is the driver of this vision and it’s applicable to every area, every aspect of your company. CEO, your board, technical teams, product teams, digital teams, CIOs, everyone.

It’s the ‘how’ to all these questions we’ve asked today because the right view of the future is one that‘s identity centric.

And we are committed to building this world where identity belongs to you. And we‘re going to do it through our two clouds. … And not only are they powerful on their own, but they are stronger together. These two clouds, they can change the entire SaaS ecosystem. And the next evolution of the Okta Integration Network, we can make workforce customers safer and SaaS builders more successful, all while driving and fostering a greater, more open, more extensive and innovative SaaS ecosystem.