What Is an Identity platform?

An Identity platform is a centralized framework that manages the digital identities of humans and devices, enabling organizations to authorize secure user access to online resources for employees and customers.

Key takeaways

  • Identity platforms function as centralized architectures that oversee user, device, and application identities, protecting access to online assets.
  • Businesses today require modern Identity solutions to meet evolving demands, consolidating Identity management to reduce complexity and enhance security.
  • Identity platform solutions are unifying, extensible, and integrated, simplifying security deployment while providing a seamless user experience (UX).
  • Current trends in Identity platforms include Identity-first security, cybersecurity mesh, and decentralized Identity.

Why Identity platforms matter

Today’s businesses have a wide range of Identity requirements. As they evolve, adopt innovations, and respond to new customer demands, they require a modern Identity solution that can expand with them. Solutions that centralize and consolidate Identity can reduce the need for multiple access management, governance, and authentication products that don’t necessarily talk to each other.

In short, while the concept of Identity platforms is still relatively new, the growth of disruptive technologies and highly personalized products and services has made a platform approach the key to effectively unifying Identity management. But how did we get here?

The history of Identity

People use the word “identity” to talk about what makes them who they are. Their sense of self reflects the family they belong to, what they do, and their responsibilities to others. Identity from a security and technology point of view isn’t much different: identifiers like groups, profile information, and roles define an organization’s users’ access rights and privileges.

The inception of Identity and Access Management (IAM) lies in web access management (WAM), an on-premises system that emerged in the 1990s at the same time as the internet. WAM controls access to web resources through authentication management, policy-based authorization, or single sign-on (SSO). Among its many flaws, WAM faces challenges protecting organizations from today’s cyberthreats, doesn’t integrate with modern cloud-based technologies, and requires complex and time-intensive maintenance.

Alongside the growth of the cloud, modern authentication and authorization solutions for Workforce and Customer Identity have emerged, better enabling hybrid organizations. From SSO to multi-factor authentication (MFA) and access gateways, cloud-first Identity solutions have been helping organizations put Identity at the center of their security, modernization, and digital experiences initiatives.

Increased cloud migration and use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) models prompted the industry’s development of Identity-as-a-service (IDaaS) offerings. Because of this, companies can scale their Identity solutions to their exact requirements.

Fast-forward to today, when the rapid shift to remote work that came with COVID-19 has vastly accelerated a relatively slow-paced global move to the cloud. Multiple users with remote access requirements put the need for IAM front and center, making it a core element of the security stack — not just a nice-to-have. So, what’s next?

What should a modern Identity platform look like?

Experts agree that Identity has become the foundation of security. It is the focal point of digital experience and the starting point for strategy. Therefore, a modern Identity platform must simplify security deployment and address evolving Identity needs. 

These three pillars are essential to building Identity offerings that support organizations as they better enable and secure their workforce and customers.

  • Unified: Modern Identity platforms provide organizations with a unified view of the identities they engage with, allowing them to centralize all personas within one platform and solve security and Identity management issues in a single place. 
  • Extensible: The best platforms are flexible, enabling organizations to customize, extend, and build solutions to meet their unique requirements through no-code, low-code, and pro-code capabilities.
  • Integrated: Identity platforms must integrate with established and evolving applications, infrastructure, and tools to maintain functionality and positive user experience (UX) during regular operations and transformation. Organizations need access to a complete selection of best-of-breed integrations across the developer landscape to choose what suits their use cases.

Delivering IAM solutions, from customer portals to servers and APIs, provides a comprehensive Identity layer. This modern approach encourages open and standardized development and enables developers to adopt and build upon flexible and highly customizable Identity solutions.

Tomorrow’s Identity platform

As Identity management platforms emerge, their inherent flexibility presents ongoing opportunities for further development. 

Elements driving Identity automation growth:

  • Identity-first security: Organizations need to consider all the security controls available across their entire Identity verification environment and how this ecosystem allows workforce users and consumers to access the services they need.
  • Cybersecurity mesh: Cybersecurity mesh is the process of securing every device and access point. It relies on security policies applied at the Identity level rather than the network level alone. This approach ensures that all resources are protected, regardless of how an organization’s infrastructure changes, and is a critical step in implementing a Zero Trust architecture.
  • Decentralized Identity: Identity platforms build on decentralized Identity, enabling users to manage their identities and receive and verify credentials from multiple issuers.

A modern Identity platform should also facilitate consolidating identities into one place with a single solution that simplifies deployment.

Who’s talking about the platform approach?

As the industry uncovers what the Identity platforms of the future could look like, some opinions and insights are emerging.


Gartner defines Identity platforms as four-pronged solutions to Identity, which converge around various areas:

  • Identity administration: The registration and provisioning of users, password management, and profile management.
  • Identity governance: Customer and Identity analytics, consent, preference, privacy management, and progressive profiling.
  • Fraud detection: This brings together fraud detection and Identity-proofing specialists to prevent attacks like account takeovers.

These three areas, alongside access management, sit on top of an Identity repository, servicing data aggregation and integration of data management, customer relationship management, legacy and virtual directories, and social media Identity providers.


Auth0 has shared its take on platforms through its Identity operating system. The solution aims to balance protecting private data and securing information with delivering user convenience. It is designed to address any Identity use case and empower developers.

Challenges of user access management

Managing user access is a critical task for IT departments in the age of hybrid environments. This transition presents IAM challenges for IT leaders and teams. However, an Identity platform that offers centralized control, seamless integration, frictionless UX, and insightful reporting to maximize security, productivity, and ROI can address these issues.

The benefits of modern Identity platforms

Managing and securing user identities is table stakes for digital business. An Identity platform optimizes agility, productivity, and security across your workforce while delivering exceptional customer experiences. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Streamlined user access management: An Identity platform allows only authorized users to access sensitive data, safeguards against unauthorized breaches, and enhances data security.
  • Configuration: Bringing configurations like MFA, malware detection, and insecure password detection or passwordless authentication into apps strengthens communication between systems, allowing organizations to act proactively on Identity concerns.
  • Automated compliance: With regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, automated Identity governance manages user data, adheres to legal standards, and delivers compliance without the manual overhead.
  • Improved UX: Better UX provides secure, seamless access to applications and services.
  • Reduced complexity and IT overhead: Automating IAM tasks enhances security while reducing IT team workloads, enabling them to concentrate on strategic initiatives.
  • Collaboration: Whether working with external partners, contractors, or remote employees, Identity platforms enable safe and efficient collaboration. 
  • Identity lifecycle management: An Identity platform manages employee and contractor user identities and access privileges from onboarding through separation.
  • Identity theft and fraud prevention: Identity platforms prevent fraud and theft by restricting access to data and systems to authenticated users.
  • Scalability: As organizations grow, so do their user bases and integrations. Identity platforms scale to accommodate increasing demands, ensuring smooth operations and continued growth.
  • Detailed access logs and reporting: Identity platforms offer detailed access logs and reporting capabilities for thorough security monitoring and auditing, enabling organizations to track and analyze access patterns.
  • Security and privacy: A user-friendly interface ensures users can access the necessary solutions seamlessly while authentication tools protect their sensitive data. A central interface allows organizations to apply and enforce the same security policies across their entire infrastructure.
  • Remote work support: In today’s remote and hybrid work environments, secure access to tools and resources from anywhere is a top requirement. Identity platforms can boost productivity and manage distributed access in remote work scenarios.
  • Solution consolidation: Frictionless integration across multiple solutions applications allows organizations to combine pre-built components and cover more use cases. No-code, low-code, and pro-code options enable companies to tailor applications to their specific requirements.
  • Cloud integration: Cloud Identity extends centralized management, access control, and security monitoring to cloud environments, integrating user authentication and compliance across on-premises and cloud-based resources and applications.

Choosing the right Identity platform

Selecting an Identity platform is a complex process. The solution should align with organizational needs, enhance security, improve UX, and support long-term business objectives.

Here are eight key steps and considerations:

  1. Define requirements: Clearly define your organization’s Identity management requirements. Consider the number of users, types of applications and services, authentication methods, regulatory compliance needs, scalability requirements, and integration capabilities.
  2. Assess security features: Security should be a top priority when selecting an Identity platform. Look for robust authentication mechanisms, encryption of sensitive data, Identity verification, role-based access control (RBAC), auditing and logging capabilities, and compliance with relevant security standards.
  3. Evaluate integration capabilities: Ensure the Identity solution seamlessly integrates with existing systems, applications, and infrastructure. Consider compatibility with on-premises systems, cloud services, APIs, directories such as Active Directory or LDAP, federated Identity protocols (e.g., SAML, OAuth, OpenID Connect), and third-party Identity providers.
  4. Consider UX: The platform should provide a smooth, intuitive UX to minimize friction and enhance adoption. Evaluate features like SSO, self-service capabilities, mobile-friendly interfaces, and support for modern authentication methods like biometrics and social login.
  5. Assess scalability and performance: Confirm that the solution can scale to accommodate growth and handle peak loads effectively. Consider factors such as performance metrics, scalability limits, user geographic distribution, and support for high availability and disaster recovery.
  6. Evaluate vendor reputation and support: Research each vendor’s track record for security, reliability, customer satisfaction, and support.
  7. Examine the total cost of ownership: Assess the cost of ownership over the long term, including upfront costs, ongoing subscription fees, implementation costs, maintenance expenses, and additional licensing or integration costs.
  8. Perform pilot testing and proof of concept: Consider a trial or pilot test before deciding. Evaluate functionality, performance, and compatibility with your organization’s specific requirements. Involve key stakeholders and gather feedback to inform your decision-making process.

Discover the Okta Advantage

Learn how Okta’s Identity platform can help manage all your user Identity requirements while reducing complexity and maximizing security.