Okta forges ahead with new provisioning, mobility management features

The functionality should make the product more appealing to enterprise IT departments

Identity management company Okta has announced a bundle of updates for its enterprise-facing products, trying to attract new business customers ahead of a planned public stock offering next year.

First off, Okta Mobility Management is getting support for Android for Work, which will help the product better manage devices running Google's mobile operating system. While the service already works with Android and iOS, this new capability lets IT departments create one profile for Android devices, and keep personal and company information separated on employees' smartphones and tablets. 

The product will also be able to manage Macs in the near future, with PCs coming after that. That means IT departments will soon be able to manage not only smartphones and tablets from the Okta Mobility Management console, but also fleets of computers.

The updates also include support for letting IT managers set up private app stores through the Okta Application Network. That way, they'll be able to dictate which applications people within the company can use on their work devices, and automatically install key software right off the bat.

That couples with a new feature that lets IT managers preconfigure mobile applications so that users can have key information filled in when they open up a new application from their workplace. 

The announcements were made Tuesday at Okta's annual user conference in Las Vegas.

Even with all of those updates, Okta Chief Product Officer Eric Berg said that it's important for the company to maintain its stance as an identity provider with an open platform, and not just push its own stack. Because the company's customers are going to work with a diverse set of vendors to get other applications, Okta needs to work broadly to meet its customers' needs.

"We have to support all of those vendors very well and very deeply, because otherwise we lose out on our value proposition," he said. 

In addition to the mobility management news, the company is improving its Cloud Provisioning product with a new SDK that lets companies build their applications to integrate with Okta without requiring the identity management company to build the connection itself. For example: LinkedIn's facilities team wanted to use EventBoard, but the service (which provides conference room displays and analytics) wasn't in high enough demand to make it a huge priority for Okta's engineers. Using the SDK, EventBoard was able to build the integration itself. 

It's an important enhancement for Cloud Provisioning, which allows people in an organization to provision applications that integrate with Okta for new users without requiring the help of an IT department. It's useful for dealing with purpose-built applications that are just used by one or two particular divisions of the company and aren't part of the normal process of getting an employee started with a new job. 

Developers that want to integrate with Okta will still have to go through a review process in order to ensure that their application is secure and works as intended, but it should make the process faster and easier for those businesses that have specialized applications. 

Pushing its mobility management product, along with expanding the firm's development platform, may seem like something of a shift for Okta, which built its business on providing cloud-based identity management. But Berg said that expanding beyond simple identity management was a part of how the company thought about itself from the get-go.

"So we sort of had a fundamental bet that not only was building a solution around identity important, but starting and focusing in something that was identity-centric was going to be a critical starting point," he said. "And then, we’ve evolved in a relatively practical way around how we’ve seen customer needs evolve."

Having a strong foothold in multiple markets will be key for Okta going forward. CEO Todd McKinnon said previously that the company plans to make its initial public offering next summer. It's competing in some crowded markets against a whole group of tech titans including Microsoft.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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