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Cognito is growing in the authentication market

Rob explains why Cognito could be your best option for a single sign-on solution.

When picking a single sign-on solution, companies tend to gravitate to the two most popular providers on the market — namely Auth0 and Okta. While these are sound choices, if you’re already using AWS, there may be a better option already at your fingertips.

Cognito, AWS’ own native authentication platform, performs the same security and compliance role – but with added cost-saving and integration benefits. We are starting to see this offering gain ground in the market but given how competitive Cognito is, the only surprise is that it isn’t catching up faster.

There seem to be two main reasons for this: 1) there is still much greater awareness of the Auth0 and Okta and 2) developers are comfortable with the status quo.

Sticking with the status quo

Auth0 and Okta are both heavily established in the developer community. This is largely thanks to the substantial amount of investment that has gone into their marketing. Whether this will continue following Okta’s recent purchase of Auth0 remains to be seen, but the greater brand recognition this has provided has helped them build a position of market dominance.

By comparison, a general lack of awareness around the benefits of Cognito hasn’t helped its cause. If developers were to compare the two – considering the cost-saving and integration benefits – you would expect more to be choosing Cognito. But this doesn’t seem to be happening.

This lack of familiarity isn’t the only factor at play though. Many developers simply feel more comfortable sticking with what they know. That may also be because Cognito provides a more stripped-back developer experience, which seems to be deterring some from making the jump.

Cost savings

Cognito delivers significant savings over Auth0 and Okta.

For starters, it’s free for up to 50,000 users, while the alternatives are not – making it attractive to start-ups. But, even if your business is growing or operating on an enterprise scale, it’s still available at about a quarter of the cost.

If a cloud-based business isn’t searching for and taking advantage of these types of incremental savings across the board, its competitive edge is going to become blunted and long-term business performance will suffer as a result. So, on the savings front alone, Cognito is not an offer that can be easily passed up.

Integration benefits

Perhaps the biggest reason to avoid those third-party platforms, however, is the level of integration that Cognito provides. If you’re already using a host of AWS services – such as API gateway, AppSync, ALBs, Directory Services, and IAM – Cognito becomes an easy choice. In comparison, Auth0 requires you to build and run additional services – creating a lot more work.

You don’t have that same consolidation of services with third-party platforms. You may need to work with 50 different providers, and developer kits, to deliver the same experience. Whereas, with an AWS native platform, you’re using the same toolkit each time – so the learning curve for developers is significantly shorter. And the time savings this provides can be enormous.

Cognito also has a UI template library which is available via AWS Amplify. This provides ready-made components for React, Angular and Vue — which will save you that work too. Of course, you may want to take the time to make it look more appealing from a user perspective, but that’s about all you need to do.

The only viable alternative

Cognito is an authentication platform that works with all cloud-based services. But, if developers are predominantly working in AWS, it will make life much easier.

Despite this, third-party platforms remain dominant. What this shows me is that there needs to be more industry discussion to raise awareness around Cognito’s comparatively great offering.

And, when you also consider that the choice in this third-party marketplace has now become limited following Okta’s recent acquisition of Auth0, Cognito may also be the only viable alternative to the dominant market leader.

So, if your business has the potential to attract millions of active users, and you’re searching for a more cost-effective choice that can save you a lot of work, it makes sense to look at Cognito – it may be your best option.

Written By Rob Greenwood 9 Aug 2021