Facebook is starting to take the enterprise world seriously, and it's now signing up partners that can provide much-needed credibility.
In 2016, the company, which makes almost all its money from online advertising, introduced Workplace by Facebook in an effort to bring its ubiquitous social network into the business world and encourage collaboration among co-workers.
On Wednesday, Facebook took another leap forward, announcing a partnership with identity management software developer Okta to tie Workplace by Facebook in with many of the cloud apps that people use at work for things such as communications and document sharing.
The agreement is part of Okta's Project Onramp, an initiative that also launched on Wednesday, to create an enterprise app store of sorts. IT managers will be able to have employees sign onto Okta and, with one click, securely access Workplace as well as services like Box, OrgWiki, PagerDuty, RingCentral, Zscaler and Zylo.
"We share a mission to democratize IT," said Julien Codorniou, vice president of Workplace by Facebook. "We took something extremely complicated and made it simple and friendly to admin and the end user."
The partnership, announced at Okta's annual user conference, gives Workplace's 30,000 customers access to the software company's identity management services and lets Okta's clients easily find, test and set up Workplace through Onramp. The services can be deployed in seconds.
"The joint solution that we have works ideally for customers that have both" Workplace and Okta, said Frederic Kerrest, Okta's co-founder and chief operating officer. "At the same time, it is a great opportunity for both companies, who are great partners and work very closely together to also help each other in the business."
Founded in 2009 by Kerrest and CEO Todd McKinnon, Okta develops cloud-based enterprise software that lets companies manage and secure employee identities and authorize apps. The company, which held its stock market debut last year, serves close to 5,000 customers, including 21st-Century Fox, Adobe, Box, Broadcom and News Corp.
Facebook is a marquee partner for Okta because, unlike traditional enterprise services that get limited use outside of the office, Facebook's social network has over 2 billion users. Workplace launched to the public in October 2016 and its price is based on engagement. Access to basic functions is free, and companies can opt to pay $3 per monthly active user for the premium product.
Workplace is essentially Facebook for work, but connections are limited to people in the same group or organization, and companies grant access to a number of productivity tools. Codorniou said it is kind of like a mix of Skype and Yammer. But it's a crowded market, featuring those Microsoft products as well as communications tools from companies including Slack, HipChat, Zoom and Google.
Through the Project Onramp partnership, Okta customers will be able to test out Workplace for free. At the end of the trial period, businesses can opt to keep Workplace and pay for it.
Workplace is already used by several large companies, including Walmart, Heineken, Delta Airlines and Starbucks. Facebook is now counting on Okta to securely bring more businesses into the world of subscription software.
"A lot of Fortune 500 companies are moving to the cloud for the first time and will only do it if it is secure and integrated," Codorniou said.