Active Directory for Mac

Written by Katelyn McWilliams on November 9, 2018

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Traditional methods of managing Mac® systems aren’t as easy as IT admins would like them to be. The concept of utilizing Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD or MAD) for managing Mac users hasn’t really been a viable option historically, due to AD being designed to integrate with Windows® products and resources first and foremost. So, in this modern era of heterogeneous environments ruled by the cloud, is there a way to implement Active Directory for Mac while still managing Windows and Linux® systems?

We’re in an age of IT where you generally can’t utilize AD alone – a plethora of add-on solutions (identity bridges, SSO solutions, etc.) are required to bridge the gap between Active Directory and non-Windows products. But where did it all go wrong? To better understand how the IT landscape has evolved, we need to step back and evaluate the history of directory services.

An Active Directory History Lesson

History of Active Directory

Nearly two decades ago, Microsoft decided to capitalize on the fact that they were a dominant force in the IT space with the prevalence of Windows products in the work environment. The IT giant built a directory service tool designed to federate their Windows identities: Active Directory. This on-prem directory immediately took hold in the enterprise in 1999 because most organization’s IT infrastructure was based around Windows resources hosted locally. What could be better than centrally managing all of your IT resources?

On-Prem Directory Solutions

Is there an Active Directory for Mac?

Of course, over time, Mac and Linux machines started to crop up in the working world. While it was possible to jump through some hoops and have your Mac system communicate with AD, it didn’t come close to resembling the seamless integration of Windows resources.

Shortly after the creation of AD, Apple released Open Directory (OD), their own directory solution designed to tightly integrate with, you guessed it, Macs. OD was meant to replace the need to utilize Active Directory for Mac systems. Now, both of these directory services were on-prem software solutions, each meant to further lock-in their users to Windows and Apple products. For homogeneous networks, these two directory services would make perfect sense. However, as we enter the era of heterogeneous IT, admins are constantly challenged when operating in a mixed OS environment.

Active Directory for Mac

Cloud-based directory service for Mac management

The introduction of the cloud further complicated the network environment for many IT admins. What was once straightforward and Windows-centric had now become a Frankenstein-esque IT patchwork of sorts. The emergence of web-based apps such as Salesforce®, or productivity platforms like G Suite™, greatly impacted how users interacted with their directory services.

Now, as organizations shift to modern, heterogeneous environments, the concept of a reimagination of Active Directory for the cloud era makes a lot of sense. This cloud-based solution should not just resemble Active Directory for Mac or Windows or Linux, but rather a cloud identity management platform that securely manages and connects users to all of their IT resources.

Manage it all with JumpCloud®

JumpCloud cloud-based alternative to AD

Luckily, a next-generation directory service has emerged to meet the needs of IT admins everywhere, called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. This cloud-based directory service is the reimagination of what Active Directory could provide for Windows systems, while being able to accommodate all three major platforms – Mac, Windows, and Linux. Including GPO like capabilities and True Single Sign-On™, JumpCloud connects your users to their IT resources like systems, files, networks, and applications regardless of platform, protocol, provider, or location.

Mac management is just a part of the full functionality of JumpCloud; schedule a demo today to see for yourself. If you have any further questions regarding the next-generation directory service, feel free to contact us or sign up for a free account. Your first ten users are free, and they always will be.

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