Active Directory for Linux

Written by Zach DeMeyer on March 11, 2019

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Is there an Active Directory for Linux that makes sense?

Clearly, the Windows-based Microsoft Active Directory (AD), often the on-prem identity provider for organizations, isn’t a great fit with Linux. Perhaps, however, there is an AD alternative that would accomplish the same types of functions that AD does for Windows®, except for Linux systems.

Linux Management Through the Years

If we take a step back, the idea of tightly controlling access to Linux systems and managing the system itself, similar to group policy objects (GPOs) for Windows, isn’t a new concept. The challenge has always been that the ways that most organizations have done so previously leave a great deal to be desired. This predicament has been especially true as Linux becomes a more popular computing choice for the average organization.

The historical approaches of user and system management for Linux have been to do it manually, script it with configuration management tools, or to stand-up an OpenLDAP™ instance. All three of these options are labor intensive and take time away from other critical DevOps and IT activities. With AWS Linux environments exploding, developers using Linux for their desktops or laptops, and Linux-based DevOps applications, it is no wonder that the issue of managing Linux users and their systems is critical.

Active Directory is Not for Linux

Of course, one may wonder if Active Directory itself can be used for Linux management. Unfortunately, the traditional directory service was designed specifically to manage Windows systems and their users. By definition, the solution is not as usable for admins seeking to manage their Linux machines.

Vendors created tools called identity bridges, which could be used to assist an AD instance for managing Linux and macOS systems. The challenge with these directory extension tools was that they further cemented AD on-prem and added extra work to manage multiple IAM systems.

An “Active” Directory for Linux and More

The good news is that a cloud identity provider called JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is not only controlling and managing Linux users and systems, but also macOS® and Windows as well. The modern IDaaS (Identity-as-a-Service) platform has taken a completely different approach to the idea of Active Directory for cross-platform situations.

With Directory-as-a-Service, the idea of a directory service for Linux systems that rivals what Windows networks have with Active Directory is reality. Using cross-platform GPO-like Policies, admins in Directory-as-a-Service can enable commands across fleets at scale.

With SSH key management as a standard feature, IT admins and DevOps engineers can quickly and easily manage AWS Linux environments as well as the username and password combinations on Linux laptops. Further, with MFA for Linux as a feature as well, IT and DevOps organizations can step-up Linux system security significantly.

Learn More about JumpCloud

Directory-as-a-Service can be your Active Directory for Linux, Mac, and Windows. You can explore all of your options with JumpCloud by scheduling a demo or signing up for a free account. A Directory-as-a-Service account includes ten users, free forever, with competitive pricing as you scale in the product. Contact us to learn more.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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