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Strata Identity, a self-proclaimed “identity orchestration” platform for multi-cloud environments, has raised $11 million in a series A round of funding led by Menlo Ventures.

Founded out of Boulder, Colorado in 2019 by the co-authors of the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), Strata is setting out to unify identity and access management (IAM) systems to enable consistent identity management across clouds and on-premises infrastructure.

Multi-cloud

Cloud infrastructure spending is continuing to grow along a hockey stick trajectory, and businesses seem eager to diversify. Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud report found that 93% of enterprises are now using multiple cloud service providers. And over the past year, both Microsoft and Google have shown their willingness to embrace multi-cloud enterprises (AWS still has some way to go).

A multi-cloud approach, spanning an array of private and public cloud service providers, holds a number of benefits, such as giving companies flexibility, helping them avoid vendor lock-in, and facilitating adherance to strict governance or regulatory compliance. And some cloud providers are simply better than others at tackling specific tasks. Politics can even come into the equation, with Walmart known to discourage potential partners from using AWS, the cloud division arm of its fierce retail rival Amazon. Moreover, mergers and acquisitions can lead companies down a multi-cloud path as they grow, and moving a new subsidiary onto a new cloud platform may not always be a priority.

But adopting distributed cloud environments also comes with friction, as there is no easy way to manage everything centrally, and each cloud platform uses a different IAM system — what businesses rely on to manage user (e.g. employees or customers) access privileges to networks, databases, and other applications.

Recent Canalys’ figures show that cloud spending grew by a third to $142 billion last year. And given that the global IAM market was pegged at $12.3 billion, it’s easy to see how creating a unified identity management system across clouds would be an appealing proposition. That is essentially what Strata is setting out to achieve.

Identity orchestration

Strata’s software finds all of a company’s identity systems across clouds and on-premises infrastructure and then migrates all the identities and policies from legacy software to modern identity systems. It basically “decouples” apps from identity and offers an easy way to get older apps working with a new ID system. Strata’s identity orchestration smarts, marketed as Maverics, can then determine how all the identities and data connect across systems and applications, allowing companies to run their apps on any cloud or identity system and even change their minds at a later point without jumping through hoops. This is what Strata refers to as a distributed identity fabric, one that bridges cloud identity systems and older datacenter systems so they can be managed as a single entity.

The only way for a company to use cloud identity management with its legacy applications is to rewrite each of them,” Strata cofounder and CEO Eric Olden told VentureBeat. “Meanwhile, identity management systems provided by AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud cannot talk to each other, so they must be managed as separate silos, each with their own user repository. Strata makes it possible to centrally control all identity and access management security policies and enforce them on any cloud or legacy identity management system without making any changes to applications.”

The identity management market is huge, currently pegged at $12 billion and projected to grow to $30 billion by 2027. Notable players in the space include Okta and Ping Identity, both of which are now multi-billion dollar publicly traded companies, and Auth0, which last year raised $120 million at a $1.92 billion valuation. Microsoft also offers an identity management platform called Azure Active Directory.

But Strata considers all of these identity management systems partners, rather than the competition. “We help customers keep using these new identity products by making them work together, and with identity systems inside cloud platforms, and be ‘backward’ compatible with existing on-premises apps,” Olden said, adding that Strata doesn’t have any direct competition yet.

“What exists today is a lack of awareness and skepticism that our new distributed approach is even possible,” Olden said. “Customers think they have to rewrite apps to make them work with cloud identity systems and spend millions of dollars and lots of time, a situation that disappears with Strata.”

Above: Strata Identity cofounder and CEO Eric Olden

Track record

Olden has a track record in the identity and access management sphere, having sold web access management company Securant to RSA Security for a reported $137 million back in 2001. He later founded an identity-as-a-service company called Symplified, which was bought by RSA Security in an apparent fire sale in 2014 and subsequently shuttered. Sandwiched between all of this activity, Olden and his Strata cofounders were instrumental in developing SAML, an open standard that enables identify providers and service providers to play ball. In effect, this makes it possible to access multiple websites using a single set of credentials. This is particularly important in enterprise setups, as it means employees don’t have to keep track of different logins to access all their applications.

Strata Identity emerged from stealth last June, with Olden noting that the company has completed “several large, successful proofs-of-concept,” signed a Fortune 50 client, and drawn interest from at least 15 Fortune 500 companies from across the finance, technology, and retail spheres. Last October, Strata was also invited to join the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA).

With $11 million in the bank, Strata said it’s now well-financed to scale its R&D, sales, and marketing efforts. As part of this investment, Menlo Ventures’ partner Venky Ganesan has joined Strata’s board of directors.

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