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Keycloak vs. Okta, a Open-Source Alternative

· 8 min read
Phase Two

Exploring Keycloak as an Alternative to Okta for Authentication Solutions

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, securing and managing user identities has become more critical than ever. Organizations are faced with the challenge of choosing the right Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution that balances cost, ease of implementation, and robust feature sets. Two popular contenders in this space are Keycloak and Okta. Keycloak, an open-source solution developed by Red Hat, offers extensive customizability and a community-driven support model. On the other hand, Okta, a leading cloud-based IAM provider, promises quick deployment and comprehensive security features through its subscription-based service. In this blog post, we will delve into a detailed comparison of Keycloak and Okta, examining their costs, total cost of ownership, implementation processes, and the rich array of features and capabilities each brings to the table. Whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, understanding these key differences will help you make an informed decision for your identity management needs.

We've compared Keycloak to Auth0 and it's worth noting that Auth0 is owned by Okta. The differences between the offerings are subtle, where Auth0 bills it more as the "developer" tool while Okta is for "SSO". They are separate subscriptions.

Cost of Ownership

When evaluating Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions, both upfront cost and total cost of ownership (TCO) are critical considerations. There are many factors to think about with a total cost-of-ownership. We've written extensively about choosing an Open-Source IAM over a managed service.


Okta operates on a subscription-based pricing model, with costs varying based on the number of users and selected features. This SaaS solution tries to simplify cost management by bundling infrastructure, maintenance, and support into its subscription fees. Organizations benefit from reduced internal IT burden, as Okta handles updates, patches, and system maintenance. However, the per-user costs can add up, especially for larger organizations, potentially leading to higher ongoing expenses compared to an open-source alternative like Keycloak. While Okta provides scalability, allowing businesses to grow without worrying about infrastructure investments, the costs that are incurred can quickly balloon far out of the original projections. With every feature enabled, the per user cost grows significantly and bills can rapidly sky-rocket in multi $100K+, becoming a large financial piece of the overall IT spend.


Keycloak, on the other hand, is an open-source solution developed by Red Hat. It is free to use, regardless of the number of users or the scale of the project. This makes Keycloak particularly attractive for businesses looking to cut costs or those who prefer not to be tied to vendor-specific pricing structures.

Keycloak, being an open-source solution, stands out with its zero licensing fees, regardless of the number of users or the scale of the project. This makes it an attractive option for organizations looking to minimize expenditures. However, it's important to note that while Keycloak is free to use, it does require infrastructure to host and run the application. This could involve costs related to cloud services or on-premises hardware. Additionally, maintaining and updating Keycloak, as well as implementing customizations, may necessitate dedicated internal resources or external support, which can add to the overall expenses. The primary cost associated with Keycloak comes from the need to self-host and manage the software, which includes server costs and potential overhead for setup and maintenance. This can mean the ongoing cost is fixed since its not driven by features or users.



Leveraging Phase Two's managed hosting provides a more capable free tier to test out and integrate Authorization and Authentication into an application(s). When that application's needs grow for users and integrations, Keycloak quickly becomes a far more cost-effective choice.



A strong advantage of Okta is that it is a managed service. From a Dev Ops perspective, it requires minimal maintenance. The Okta team handles updates, security patches, and infrastructure, ensuring that the system is kept up-to-date. This comes at a cost though since customization of Okta is limited.


Conversely, Keycloak requires more attention since it's self-hosted. Organizations must allocate resources for installing, configuring, and updating the software, as well as managing the underlying infrastructure. This can be a drawback for teams without the necessary technical expertise or resources. However, it also offers greater control over the deployment and security standards, which can be a significant advantage for certain regulatory environments.



As a fully managed service, Okta abstracts away this work.

Functionality and Flexibility


Okta’s authentication mechanisms support multiple methods for enhanced security and user convenience. The platform’s authorization capabilities include role-based access control (RBAC) and policy management, allowing organizations to enforce detailed security policies. Okta supports identity federation through SAML, OpenID Connect, and other standards, facilitating integration with various identity providers. Its single sign-on (SSO) functionality ensures a seamless user experience across different applications and services. Okta’s user management features are extensive, offering self-service registration, account recovery, and a comprehensive user directory. Additionally, Okta’s APIs and pre-built integrations with numerous third-party applications simplify the implementation process. The platform also provides detailed analytics, logging, and reporting features for monitoring and compliance, as well as automated user provisioning, deprovisioning, and workflow management through its lifecycle management capabilities.


Keycloak offers a comprehensive suite of features designed to meet the needs of modern applications that are at parity (or better) in many ways with Okta. Keycloak provides various authentication methods, including username/password, social logins, and multi-factor authentication (MFA), ensuring secure access for users. It also supports fine-grained authorization capabilities through role-based access control (RBAC) and attribute-based access control (ABAC), enabling precise management of user permissions. Keycloak excels in identity federation, supporting protocols like SAML and OpenID Connect, which allows seamless integration with other identity providers. Additionally, Keycloak’s single sign-on (SSO) feature facilitates a smooth user experience across multiple applications, while its extensive user management capabilities, including user registration, password policies, and account linking, ensure comprehensive control over user identities. The platform is highly customizable, offering themes, custom code, and extensive configuration options, and benefits from strong community support and a wide range of extensions and plugins.

A main point is that the features that Okta and Auth0 try to cover (somewhat separately) are all covered by why Keycloak can do.



Okta and Keycloak offer much of the same functionality for Authentication and Authorization, however Keycloak is extremely flexible to extend and configure. It's a system that can adjust and grow with an application. In addition, there is no distinction in capabilities between different products, meaning Keycloak centralizes more use-cases.

Integrating Keycloak with External Systems like Okta

For organizations looking to transition from Okta to Keycloak or integrate Keycloak with systems that are already using Okta, Keycloak's flexibility offers significant advantages. Keycloak can be configured to act as a broker that sits between Okta and your applications. This setup allows organizations to leverage the strengths of both platforms. For example, an organization can use Okta for external user management due to its robust third-party integrations while using Keycloak to handle more sensitive internal authentication needs.

The identity brokering capability of Keycloak enables it to delegate authentication to external Identity Providers (IdPs), such as Okta. This means that Keycloak can manage internal permissions and roles, provide additional security checks, and maintain a user-friendly, consistent login experience across different systems. The ability to integrate seamlessly with services like Okta simplifies the migration process for companies transitioning from one authentication system to another and provides a layer of flexibility for new authentication strategies without disrupting user access or security.

Which IAM Solution Is Best for Me?

Choosing between Okta and Keycloak largely depends on your organization’s specific needs and capabilities. Okta is an excellent choice for those who need a fully managed solution with costs linked to user numbers and features. However, for organizations that prioritize cost savings and predictability, have the capability to manage their infrastructure, or require extensive customization, Keycloak emerges as a powerful, budget-friendly alternative.

Both platforms offer extensive documentation and community support, which can help mitigate some of the challenges associated with implementation and maintenance.

Ultimately, we at Phase Two believe marrying the two together is the strongest match. We offer robust Keyloak hosting, migration, and support options that fit well for multiple business sizes. Coupling the capabilities of Keycloak and the advantages of a managed service translates directly to implementation and cost control in SSO, authenication, authorization, user management, and other areas. Leveraging Keycloak means that ongoing costs are relatively fixed, since concerns about user growth or feature needs don't have to factor into every decision.