Todd McKinnon, former vice president of engineering for Salesforce.com, was part of the founding team of Okta, a new company offering on-demand identity and access management services for cloud-based environments. We talked to him about Okta’s mission and how its platform is helping enterprises accelerate and secure the migration to cloud-based applications.

On identifying the opportunity: By 2007, when I was running engineering at Salesforce.com, there already was a good catalog of functional cloud solutions, and the companies deploying software-as-a-service were looking for a cloud-first IT approach. The ROI was well understood. It’s much different than building corporate on-premise IT stuff. You have to rethink a lot of basic assumptions from the on-premise world. I saw an opportunity for a system that would address the management and security of all those apps built in the cloud.

On what Okta provides: The first three areas of management and security we’re tackling are solving the three basic problems all our customers have. First, we want to give users a single URL to access multiple services in the cloud. Secondly, our system is an identity management system, so we can manage user identities across multiple applications. The third major bucket is reporting and analytics. Once people are using the system to manage cloud services, we can give them all kinds of information about how everything is performing.

On going to market: We’re selling to product directly, and we have channel partners. We’re also partnering with \\[independent software vendors\\] to sell our solution bundled with theirs. We’ve developed a platform they can talk to—we don’t require ISVs to change their code.

On customer targets: Our solution is directed at medium-sized companies who are leading the adoption of cloud services. They want it to be simple for the right people to get access to the right data, and they want transparency and visibility. They want to understand how things are running.

On putting their money where their mouth is: There are some vendors that are providing solutions from an on-premise perspective—giving customers an appliance to install. That’s the opposite of what we want to do with the cloud. Our service is built from the ground up to be a cloud service. The center of gravity is shifting to the cloud, so companies need a cloud service to manage it.

On what’s next: We think the cloud is fundamentally better, and all companies should be developing a strategy to leverage it. By creating this universal standard, we think we can accelerate the adoption of cloud capabilities immensely. Over time, we’ll build whatever additional modules are required to migrate to the cloud in a more manageable way.