Report from Oktane19
For anyone working with Okta, the place to be this year was Oktane19 in San Francisco. Oktane itself is two full days of keynotes, breakouts and networking, but there are so many more things going on that it’s easy to turn Oktane into a full week event!
I had the pleasure of attending Oktane this year alongside my colleague Nils Anders Hvinden. Ahead of the conference itself, there are opportunities to take part in training and certification sessions, as well as “mini-conferences” for targeted audiences. We started out by signing up for some Oktane master classes covering different topics, and for anyone looking to increase their knowledge of Okta, I can highly recommend these training sessions.
The first one we attended was about advanced mastering. It was well organized with each student having access to a full lab environment and with a good pace and progression through the various steps and challenges. As far as I could tell, even the teaching assistants in the session had experience comparable to my own. Even though I thought I had some difficult questions along the way, they were always able to provide good insights and useful answers. Double thumbs-up to Okta Educational Services!
It’s all about the people, people!
The training session was a perfect start to Oktane, because it highlights an aspect to Oktane that deserves attention. I’ll be coming to awards and product announcements shortly, but what truly makes Oktane such a great event are the people you get to interact with and hear from. The teaching assistants, the people on Okta’s partner team, the experts in Okta Consulting Services, Okta’s international teams, be they European-based or Australia-based or from somewhere else entirely. From Okta customers telling great stories and presenting interesting challenges we need to help them solve via Okta’s presenters demonstrating functionality and discussing where Okta is headed to keynote speakers that can grab a crowd of 4000 and mesmerize us with their personal stories and experiences, it’s all about the people.
A big thank you to all;
you’re at the very core of why Oktane19 was such a great event!
I wish I could summarize the keynotes delivered by Viola Davis and Frank Abagnale in a few sentences, but I would fail entirely; if you get a chance to see a YouTube recording of them, go for it! It is also worth watching Okta CEO Todd McKinnon’s keynote where he, among many things, talked about his thoughts on Okta as an open platform and how making it as open as possible would provide the basis for increasing the integrations available through it ten-fold, hundred-fold and beyond! And I would be remiss if I didn’t make note of the keynote delivered by the Head of ICT of Norwegian Refugee Council, Pietro Galli, bringing attention to the important work they do at NRC and highlighting NRC as this year’s focal point for Okta for Good.
Cloudworks – Okta EMEA Partner of the Year
To focus on ourselves for a bit, Okta is a central part of Cloudworks’ strategy and we have been putting significant effort into building our own competency and experience with both Okta as a product and Okta as a partner in delivering value to our customers. With that as a backdrop, it’s truly great to see ourselves named Okta EMEA Partner of the Year at Okta’s Partner Summit. It’s an acknowledgement of the effort we’ve made so far, but more importantly, an inspiration for what we already are working to accomplish in the time ahead.
A big thank you to Nick Miles and the entire Okta EMEA team;
there is no way we would be where we are without you guys working with us to get there!
Okta product announcements
Okta at its core is an authentication/access/SSO solution that provides easy and secure access to cloud services. It has been possible to do basic identity lifecycle management and related tasks in Okta, but if you had complex needs in any way, you soon found yourself needing to make use of more specialized solutions to handle it. Okta has been good at integrating with other vendors and products, but you had to go to that external solution to handle it.
However, with the announcements coming out of this year’s Oktane, Okta is taking large and significant strides to becoming a full-fledged IAM solution, both for the cloud and on-prem, and able to handle most things even complex organization can ask it to do.
Let’s take a look at some specifics among these announcements:
With Okta’s acquisition of Azuqua earlier this year, Okta are bringing a customizable workflow engine into event handling, with decision-based and conditional branching, call-outs to integrated systems and all without having to code or compile anything. I saw two demonstrations of it over the course of Oktane:
- Handling a security incident based on a user report, triggering security actions on the user’s account, SMS notification to designated security officers and logging the issue in an integrated security system.
- Hire workflow able to distinguish between in-house and contracted users, provisioning applications, making allowances for manager approval for contract workers and doing Slack notifications in designated Slack channels.
I don’t know when this will reach General Availability, but I see uses for this with every single customer I work with, so this is great stuff!
This can be seen as closely related to the workflow engine mentioned above, but is a lot closer to becoming available and of immediate use in its own right, so it’s worth making specific note of it.
“Okta Hooks”, as they are being branded, can be used with a wide range of events in Okta to extend functionality and provide customization possibilities. We saw this demonstrated by enhancing a customer registration scenario within CIAM, to ensure that a new customer was inserted properly into CRM-handling solutions, and I even tried my hand at programming Okta Hooks to handle user registration data sanitation as part of this year’s Okta Developer Challenge.
As with the workflow engine, the sky’s the limit for how Okta organizations can put this to use. Need to generate unique usernames based on a range of criteria? Sure! Need to do notifications to given stakeholders and systems owners when given applications are assigned? Why not! Need to do look-ups in reference systems before allowing someone to join given groups? Hook it up! I’m really looking forward to seeing how this can solve some challenges we’ve seen in our Okta implementations.
Advanced Server Access
It’s possible for organizations that are small and lean to provide the IT services they need through SaaS applications, but any organization of a certain size usually has a certain infrastructure to support their IT needs, and furthermore, it tends to be a complex combination of on-prem and cloud servers and services at that.
Enter Okta Advanced Server Access, a modern approach to server access whereby Okta offers centralized access controls across any cloud environment supporting Linux and Windows servers (public, private or hybrid), and cloud instances across AWS, GCP, and Azure. I am no server admin, but having heard discussions about these issues and how they have challenged organizations previously, I’m pretty sure this can help a lot of people ensure that the correct users have access to different parts of the infrastructure without making everything grind to a halt to keep things secure. This brings Okta into Privileged Access Management, though I need to see exactly how well it can work for this purpose.
Other news from Oktane:
- Risk-Based Authentication – using the vast userbase that Okta has accumulated and leveraging machine learning to evaluate the billions of events they handle, Okta will allow organizations to augment the user authentication scenarios with risk-based functionality.
- Okta Access Gateway – Providing seamless on-prem authentication without having to deploy and maintain large on-prem identity stacks.
Oktane19 was a blast, in so many ways;
hope to see you at next year’s Oktane20!