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New Okta platform weds identity access management, EMM

For businesses relying on cloud management and provisioning of corporate apps, Okta Mobility Management may be an attractive new option.

IT has a new platform that goes beyond signing into corporate apps via the mobile Web.

Okta, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that offers identity access management (IAM), launched a full-blown enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform to compete in the market against large vendors like IBM, Samsung, Citrix and VMware and independent companies like MobileIron, Inc. and Good Technology, Inc.

Okta Mobility Management closes the gap between its IAM platform and accessing corporate applications on mobile devices. Another product, Okta Mobile, gives users access to those applications on mobile devices, but only through a Web portal.

The new product creates a layer for mobile management in the cloud, where a user's software as a service (SaaS) applications are provisioned to a mobile device and can be accessed through one login. Policies can be set by IT, including device passcode policies or sharing between enterprise applications. If an employee leaves a company, corporate data can be wiped while personal applications remain.

Okta has made the move as IT's management focus for mobile shifts away from devices and closer to data, applications and users themselves, said Tyler Shields, analyst with Forrester Research, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

That's in part because the prevalence of bring your own device (BYOD) has destroyed the perimeter set up by corporate devices in the past.

"The concept of putting money into security resources and controls that secure your perimeter is completely worthless and a waste of money," Shields said. "You really need to go out, to securing the data specifically."

Okta simplifies mobile for Del Monte Foods

Del Monte Corp., also based in San Francisco, split in two halves earlier this year, leaving behind one company that produces pet food and another, Del Monte Foods, Inc., that manufactures canned fruits and vegetables.

The pet food company took the previous company's IT operations with it, leaving Del Monte Foods to establish its own IT organization for about 400 employees. Del Monte needed a cloud-based identity access management platform to work alongside Microsoft Office 365, Box and video conferencing platform Blue Jeans Network, said Tim Weaver, Del Monte Foods' CIO.

"We needed something to help us glue all that together from a user and a provisioning standpoint," Weaver said.

[Securing] your perimeter is completely worthless and a waste of money.
-Tyler Shieldsanalyst, Forrester Research

Weaver had deployed Okta at another company and elected to go with it as an IAM vendor after also looking at competitors Ping Identity and OneLogin. Proximity to the company, Weaver's past experience with Okta and a track record of quick implementation and activation of applications were reasons why Del Monte went with Okta, Weaver said. With Okta developing Okta Mobility Management, Del Monte also went on board as an early adopter of the new EMM platform.

Del Monte's employees use a mix of BYOD and corporate-owned devices and barely notice the Okta Mobility Management layer on their phones once they are enrolled. Security profiles for each user are pushed down from IT for management and the users get their apps and data without much interference.

"It's been very seamless for them," Weaver said. "It's almost like you don't get a lot of feedback because they don't know what's going on."

Del Monte claims it hasn't tracked how much time or money has been saved through Okta Mobility Management, but it only takes a few minutes to push a security profile down to a device and the company has faced very few issues with that process, Weaver said.

"Okta is coming at this from a very user-facing mindset," Weaver said. "How is the user going to experience this process, versus how IT is going to experience it?"

Price, competition may limit Okta Mobility Management

Okta Mobility Management's strengths include security and user experience, Shields said. When a user logs into a mobile application connected to the platform, an Okta logo flashes across the screen, completing the login and giving the user a consistent experience across all those secured apps, he said.

Okta Mobility Management comes with an introductory deal for Okta's existing 2,000 enterprise customers, who can try the new product for free for six months. While the starting price of Okta Mobility Management at $4 per user, per month, is right in line with similar products like AirWatch by VMware and MobileIron, it may still be too much for some customers. Okta could have made its EMM product permanently free to anyone buying its other products to really sweeten the pot, Shields said.

"Just lock it in and say, 'We're already managing you as a user, here's another feature added on,'" he said. "Do you know how many enterprises would hop all over [Okta for EMM] immediately?"

Okta also faces the challenge of a fierce EMM market that's seen high-priced acquisitions and more and more vendors getting in on the act. Okta will keep pushing its core IAM platform and many of those companies are already using EMM products. Continuing to work alongside those companies will be an issue, Shields said.

"You've got to be able to cooperate with [other EMM platforms] as well as live independently," Shields said.

One of Okta's IAM rivals, Centrify Corp., recently partnered with Samsung Knox for a SaaS application called Knox IAM. Microsoft also touts its own EMM Suite as the best way for IAM to manage access for Office applications.

Okta Mobility Management is available now for managing Apple iOS and Google Android devices. Support for BlackBerry and Windows Phone is anticipated by the second half of 2015, the company said.

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Are you interested in tying your IAM platform to an EMM strategy?
Yes - our current IAM solution does not really cover our growing mobile needs.