Active Directory® is Dead. Long Live Azure® AD.

Written by Natalie Bluhm on April 12, 2019

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As Microsoft® looks to make the transition from Active Directory® to Azure® AD, does this mean that Active Directory is dead and we should all adopt the new mantra of “Long Live Azure AD”? Not quite. Let us explain.

Isn’t Azure AD Active Directory in the Cloud?

It would seem that way based on Microsoft’s naming convention and the assumptions that people are making. Unfortunately, that’s not really true. Microsoft’s viewpoint in their identity management strategy is much more nuanced from what we can glean from their public comments. For example, here’s a Microsoft representative’s response to an Azure AD related question on Spiceworks:

Azure Active Directory is not designed to be the cloud version of Active Directory. It is not a domain controller or a directory in the cloud that will provide the exact same capabilities with AD… That’s why there is no actual “migration” path from Active Directory to Azure Active Directory. You can synchronize your on-premises directories (Active Directory or other) to Azure Active Directory but not migrate your computer accounts, group policies, OU etc.

Essentially, the Microsoft representative is saying that Azure AD is really a complementary solution to Active Directory. This makes a lot of sense when you take into consideration the profits Microsoft would lose by allowing customers to fully replace their on-prem Active Directory instance. Now that we’ve cleared up the fact that Azure AD is not Active Directory in the Cloud, what is Microsoft’s play with Azure AD?


Breaking Up with Active Directory

Don’t let your directory hold you back. Learn why it’s time to break up with AD.

The Azure AD Strategy—Will It Work for You?

Microsoft’s strategy with Azure AD is to extend on-prem AD identities to Azure cloud services and to web applications via SAML. The hope is that this last step will keep many organizations entrenched with Microsoft. If you are a Microsoft-centric organization, this strategy works in your favor by fine-tuning user management across on-prem and cloud Microsoft IT resources.

The same cannot be said if you have started or have completely eliminated Microsoft from your IT network. For you, the concept of being constrained to the Active Directory family of identity management solutions ends up limiting your ability to manage your infrastructure. AD wasn’t built to support macOS® and Linux® systems, web applications, cloud infrastructure from AWS®, non-Windows® file servers, and WiFi, which are all commonly found in many modern workplaces.

So how do you manage this type of environment? If you need to hang on to Active Directory, you can purchase add on solutions like identity bridges, web application single sign-on platforms, and more. If you are in a good position to completely replace Active Directory, take a look at JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

What is JumpCloud?

JumpCloud is a modern cloud-based alternative to Active Directory. It securely integrates with virtually all IT resources regardless of location, platform, provider, and protocol. As a result, you can centralize user access to all of your systems (Windows, Mac®, and Linux), legacy and web-based applications, physical and virtual file storage, and wired and wireless networks. The beauty of a solution like this is that your end users gain frictionless access to their work resources while you can eliminate the headaches that come with on-prem infrastructure. So, Microsoft may not be shifting Active Directory to the cloud any time soon, but you can get there with JumpCloud.

Discover More

Interested in having a lengthier conversation about the reasons why Active Directory is dead? Let’s chat. We’d be happy to walk you through how JumpCloud can fit within your identity management strategy. However, we offer a fully featured free account, so you don’t have to take our word for how JumpCloud can work in your IT environment. You don’t need a credit card, and your first ten users are on the house forever. Sign up now.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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