Okta: Balancing Simple and Secure for M&E Tech Access

Founded by some of the early engineers of Salesforce, the team at San Francisco-based Okta saw early on one of the main challenges facing media and entertainment companies in today’s digital world: connecting everything to the cloud, and doing it securely. That foresight has resulted in the company creating an integrated system that connects people using any device to the technologies they need to do their work, enabling the right people access to applications at any time, with major security protections still in place.

Chuck Fontana, VP of corporate and business development for Okta, spoke with the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) about the company’s work with major studios, the ways it balances access and security for the cloud and mobile devices, and how it’s helping media and entertainment companies manage access between apps and services, without overspending on integrations.

MESA: How did Okta come about, and what gap(s) in market has the company sought to fill?

Fontana: Our founders started Okta because they saw first-hand, as early engineers at Salesforce, just how hard it was connecting enterprises to a more cloud and mobile world. Enterprises relied on premises-based identity that wasn’t equipped to enable a more mobile and interconnected workforce. To effectively compete, businesses need to connect not just their employees, but all their customers, partners and contractors. By moving identity to the cloud — what we call the “Okta Identity Cloud” — Okta has been able to help enterprises transform, especially companies in media and entertainment.

MESA: Okta’s stated vision is to ‘be the system that enables any company to adopt any technology.’ How does Okta fulfill this promise, especially for media and entertainment companies?

Fontana: The biggest technological change in recent history has been the advent of the mobile device, and its widespread adoption has greatly impacted media and entertainment companies. Mobile has completely torn down the boundaries of how, when, and where we experience media. And it has shifted the expectations of the consumer: not only do they want an interactive, seamless and simple experience as they play games, watch videos or read the news, but they expect it to be customized to their taste, always on and secure.

In order to achieve these on-demand experiences, companies must manage the intricate relationships between users and the experiences provided to them. Think about your average video-streaming app. They may use one service to stream the video, another to encrypt the video, a separate service to process the payment for the video and another to track a viewer’s engagement with the content. In order to provide the best service to the viewer, entertainment companies don’t build all those services themselves, but instead pull together the best kinds of apps for one great viewing experience.

Okta helps companies connect these services seamlessly and securely on the backend, without having to build complicated customized integrations.

 MESA: Security appears to be front and center when it comes to Okta’s offerings. Can you share what steps Okta takes to help M&E organizations better secure their enterprises?

okta-logoFontana: Media and entertainment companies are now technology companies with a direct link to their customers.

As global enterprises, M&E organizations collaborate using tools like Google Apps and Adobe Creative Cloud, sharing rough cuts and sensitive information across different partners, employees and organizations, and use apps and services to directly share content with and bill their customers.

Okta creates an enterprise-grade security layer between all full time and part time employees and partners and the services they are connecting to. We use strong authentication policies to verify users and reduce the threat of security incidents.

 MESA: Okta’s product offerings go along two lines: for IT and for developers. What makes each unique, and who can make the most use of each?

Fontana: Developers can integrate identity services (authentication, user management, API authorization) into their applications using Okta and ensure that their application is built with identity at the center.

However, the strength of Okta is its flexibility in its solutions. IT can implement the tool to do everything from manage identity, strengthen security policies and even enable BYOD.

MESA: What are some of Okta’s favorite use case examples, where media and entertainment companies made especially good use of the company’s services?

Fontana: One notable example is 20th Century Fox, which on average partners with 200 companies on a film for everything from content creation to content distribution. In order to manage this complicated digital supply chain, they use Okta from pre- to post-production in order to make the experience seamless for both the creators and viewers.

The entertainment industry experienced a dramatic transformation in the past few years as everything from content creation to global content distribution relies on digital technologies rather than legacy physical workflows.

This transformation has had a profound effect on IT organizations within the industry: they now focus on the creative process and distribution of film and television content, not just maintaining technology systems.

As Fox continues to create and distribute amazing content, the Fox Media Cloud, a combination of Virtual Private Cloud and Public Cloud, has been critical to this digital transformation. The global distribution of a major theatrical release can easily involve an extended team of hundreds of business partners. In an industry that continually reinvents itself, cloud technologies such as Box and Salesforce help all those people collaborate, stay competitive, and do their best work.

Here, Fox needed a reliable, simple and effective authentication platform to tie all of this together to make sure that the right people were accessing its content at the right time: Okta.

To bring everyone under the Fox Media Cloud umbrella, Fox needed an identity platform that could address a few important concerns:

  • Scale to make user provisioning simple and seamless across internal and external teams
  • Offer a customized user interface for Fox business partners.
  • Simplify a complex Microsoft Active Directory environment.
  • Offer extensive reporting and visibility into who is logging on where.
  • Offer easy access to mobile teams working on location on different kinds of devices.
  • Innovate continuously in the area of identity management, to keep up with customer needs.

The plan was to roll Okta out to 5,000 Box users, but that quickly changed when the Fox team realized how easily Okta could connect users to all the cloud apps Fox’s filmmakers, promoters, and distributors needed every day. Soon, all 22,000 Fox employees were using Okta to log into applications such as Box, Office 365, Salesforce, Slack and more.

The next step was to bring those hundreds of business partners onto the platform as well. The team worked to connect content creators and content distributors to the Fox Media Cloud so that their collaboration could be truly seamless.

Today, Fox’s extended enterprise is connected like never before. Files can be shared across time zones as easily as across a worktable. Each person has just one ID and credential to manage, and one place to access all the apps they need.

Okta has helped Fox IT seamlessly connect the company’s many divisions, its key business partners, and its complex Active Directory environment. With Okta, it’s easy to manage access policies efficiently — all without the need for a heavy hardware or software footprint.

The next big plot point in Fox’s journey is about mobility — making sure that employees and partners can access their work from wherever they happen to be. Okta Mobility Management has been signed for the lead role, and it looks like a promising sequel.

MESA: What’s next for Okta, what advances and offerings can we expect from the company in the coming months and years?

Fontana: Okta is focused on helping customers close what we call The Innovation Gap and enabling them to connect any service, device or user securely. With the announcement of our latest technology, API Access Management, companies can securely manage access between apps, machines and services without having to invest in costly customized integrations.