Okta Oktane 2017: keynote noteworthies

Enterprise identity specialist Okta kicked off its Oktane 2017 conference and exhibition this year with an appropriately charged women in technology breakfast.

Welcoming female executives from KcKinsey & Company, experion, Catholic Health Initiatives, Google and Symantec… introductions and stories were tabled to help share confidence, understand how to overcome obstacles and help women in technology understand how to create a path (in any company) for themselves.

Women in tech, the male role

The audience was made up of perhaps 60% females and 40% males — and this was a (arguably) a good mix given that much of the discussion gravitated towards what kind of networks and mentorship programme people tend to engage in.

  • Men’s networks = mostly men.
  • Women’s networks = mostly women… and this ends up developing into a network that is ultimately narrower with less access to senior leadership.

Other key topics covered in this session included the need to combat ‘unconscious bias’ and the need for women to get involved in areas of work practice that moved outside of their central comfort zones.

Main keynote

Into the main keynote then, CEO Todd McKinnon explained that it has been a big year for Okta with the firm’s IPO and the rising understanding of what identity is in technology circles.

Looking at the contemporary cloud-centric services-driven world of computing, McKinnon says that, “Integration is everything, but the perimeter of our networks has been redefined. Given the sheer volume of users now interacting with our networks [we can say that] people are the new perimeter.”

McKinnon also explained the firm’s new ‘Business @ Work Dashboard’ product. This software allows firms to see which applications are the most accessed (and therefore the most popular) inside any given organisation.

The software is capable of breaking down ‘different types’ of applications so that firms can start to focus on a) which apps will need the most identity access provisioning and b) which apps will need the most work in terms of getting them to the point where they can integrate with other pieces of software.

The extended enterprise

Okta execs spent some time running demos sessions during the opening keynote… the firm is attempting to try and show how its software could become the identity layer for any application on any device.

“The rapid adoption of mobile devices and cloud services, together with a multitude of new partnerships and customer-facing applications, has extended the identity boundary of today’s enterprise,” states the September 2012 Forrester Research, Inc. report titled Evolve Your Identity Strategy For The Extended Enterprise.

Legacy approaches to IAM are failing us because they can’t manage access from consumer endpoints, they don’t support rapid adoption of cloud services and they can’t provide secure data exchange across user populations claims Forrester Research, Inc., principal analyst Eve Maler, in a September 2012 blog post.

All the products on the Okta Identity Cloud are built using the same set of core services.

Developer empathy

But can’t any developer build a password page into any app? Not so much says CEO McKinnon and this is because it quickly becomes a ‘high stakes component’ that has to be able to have richer layers such as reset functionality and more complex authorisation capabilities and so on.

Okta rounded out its first morning of this two day show by admitting that when it first opened up its platform four-years ago it failed to put enough focus on the developer proposition.

“If we want to become the identity layer for every developer to be able to build identity [and secure sign in] for every application, then we know we need to embrace the needs of software engineers [of all disciplines] very clearly,” said McKinnon.

Deeper dive developer demos finalised designed to showcase how the Okta platform worked closed what was a an undeniably deep-geek keynote for a conference that isn’t actually specifically billed as a developer event.

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Absolutely NOT....yet...
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Those steps sound reasonable, but I wonder how realistic it is for most businesses to stay on offense, especially when they’ve already started a BYOD program prior to having a clearly defined and communicated strategy. I recently read that if companies didn’t allow millennials to use social media and other tools like they wanted, that they were likely to say “fine,” and then turn around and start using the tools they wanted to get the work done anyway. It seems like the strategy needs to be developed with the assistance of the users of the apps so that it gets more buy-in, making it easier for the business to stay on the offensive.
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We do not at this time, although I can see where the need is becoming more evident. We started with a BYOD program that had very few guidelines. As a result, we started to notice that there were a lot of people using a lot of different third-party apps to do the same thing, such as Dropbox, Box, etc. I think the main reason that we do not now have one is that the floodgates were opened before a strategy was in place, and now most efforts are spent on damage control.
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