Okta pursues European partners for cloud service


Cloud-based identity management vendor Okta has detailed its plans to build out its indirect channel as it ramps up its European operations.

The San Francisco-based firm provides directory services, single sign-on, strong authentication, provisioning, workflow, and built-in reporting to enable IT departments manage user access across any application, person or device.

With its European HQ in London, Okta has had a presence in the region since September 2013, and counts Gatwick Airport and Peterborough Council as customers in the UK. It is headed-up in the region by VP of EMEA, Philip Turner.

The vendor currently divides its sales channel into two parts. As part of the Okta Technology Alliance (OTA) it partners with a number of ISVs such as Box and ServiceNow to connect their products with Okta to enable single sign-on, simple and secure directory integration, and/or user provisioning.

Meanwhile its Okta Solution Partners (OSP) are VAR and system integrators which are looking to integrate cloud and mobile technologies into their clients’ existing infrastructure.

VC-backed Okta says more than 75 percent of its sales are indirect in EMEA, which it reckons is unusual for a vendor which is still relatively early into building out its EMEA business.

According to Bill Fitzgerald, VP channel sales worldwide at Okta, the majority of the vendor’s channel business is delivered in conjunction with referrals from its OTA (ISV) partners.

“This is more of a reflection of the maturity of our ISV relationships and the need to have channel partners engaged in the sales and professional services process of our deal. As we continue to grow our business within the region and scale our channel ecosystem (system integrator, security and Microsoft partners), we expect the majority of our partner deals to come directly from our channel sales ecosystem,” he says.

Currently the firm is working with around 15 ISVs in EMEA and has five partners signed up to its OSP programme.

However Fitzgerald says that the company is looking to partner with 15-20 new OSP partners: “We’d rather recruit a smaller number of committed partners than a larger number of partners who aren’t equally committed to us or that we’re unable to properly support. It’s very much a vision of quality over quantity.”

He says Okta is splitting its partner recruitment plan into a number of areas.

The firm is trying to replicate some of the work its US team has been doing with a number of the global systems integrators, such as CGI and Avanade.

In EMEA, it is also targeting regional cloud integrators and consultancies that have built business around cloud advisory, implementation and integration services, including Microsoft-centric partners deploying Office 365 and smaller, specialist consultancies that have a niche practice deploying Google Apps, Salesforce.com and ServiceNow.

“We’re also working with some of the more traditional VARs in the market due to their wide customer base and ability to quickly help us scale,” says the exec. “Lastly, we’re working with some of the specialist IT security and identity management consultancies.”

While there are a number of players in the evolving identity-as-a-service (IDaaS) market, Okta claims its “true IDaaS” offering – which it defines as solutions which don’t require any on-premise servers to work – is cheaper, quicker to implement and offers better user experiences and simplified administration compared to on-premise identity & access management solutions offered by the likes of Oracle, CA or IBM.

“With the way the market is evolving, it’s services that can help our partners transition their business from being based around legacy services and software, to cloud-focused integrators, consultancies and resellers – something that most, if not all, partners are currently investigating,” claims Fitzgerald.

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UPDATE: Okta's statement that 75 percent of its sales are indirect in EMEA includes relationships with tehnology partners such as Box, rather than its own channel sales.

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.