Active Directory® as a Service & Mac Device Management

By Vince Lujan Posted December 2, 2017

Active Directory® as a Service & Mac Device Management

The IT landscape has changed a lot since the turn of the century. It used to be that just about everyone had a Microsoft® Windows-based PC for work. They used Windows-based applications and resources like Office and Exchange. Everything was on-prem and IT could manage it all with Microsoft Active Directory (AD).

Fast forward to today and things look a lot different for most organizations. Macs are now more popular than ever. Windows devices now only represent one in five devices (Forbes). IT still leverages AD, but they want it delivered as a service from the cloud as with most of their IT infrastructure. That’s why one question on the minds of a lot of IT admins is whether or not Active Directory® as a Service and Mac device management are possible with one solution from the cloud.

It’s a logical question with the changing dynamic of IT infrastructure around the world. The good news is that it is certainly possible to have an AD as a service solution that supports Mac device management, but before we explain how, let’s step back and see why IT organizations want this capability in the first place.

Active Directory as a Platform

Active Directory® as a Service platform

Most IT professionals already know that Windows has been the most dominant operating system for decades. Windows was even considered to be a monopoly in the business community for many years. This, of course, led to Microsoft introducing a number of tools to help manage Windows-based networks.

The IT management tools that became staples in virtually all organizations included Microsoft Active Directory (AD), and SCCM (previously SMS) for system management. These IT management tools that Microsoft offered naturally favored Windows users and devices, which fueled the adoption of Windows devices in the enterprise.

Active Directory underpinned the entirety of this infrastructure. As the core directory service, AD was the user and device management platform. IT organizations could tie everything in the network together with AD. Users could be managed across Windows systems, applications, and network access could be controlled through the domain controller as well. This system worked well because of the homogeneity of the IT environment.

IT wants Active Directory as a Service

IT wants Active Directory® as a Service

The IT landscape started to change in the mid-to-late 2000s. IT organizations were shifting to cloud infrastructure and web applications that were not all Windows-based. In fact, Linux overtook Windows as the leading operating system in the modern cloud data center. SaaS applications such as G Suite started the shift away from Microsoft Exchange, Windows File Server, and Office. Macs made significant inroads into the enterprise as Apple started their resurgence.

All of these changes eroded Microsoft’s control over the IT management tools space, including Active Directory, which slowly became less effective at managing and controlling the modern IT network. Ultimately, as more and more organizations moved to the cloud and non-Windows platforms, IT admins started looking for an Active Directory® as a service solution that could manage Macs, Linux, AWS, G Suite, and much more.

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t offer an AD as a service solution and their Azure AD platform is nothing more than a complement to on-prem AD instances, rather than a replacement for Active Directory in the cloud. The good news is that a new generation of Directory-as-a-Service® platform from JumpCloud is taking the mantle on cloud directory services.

Active Directory® as a Service Alternative: Directory-as-a-Service

Active Directory® as a Service alternative with DaaS

Directory-as-a-Service is an enterprise-grade identity and access management (IAM) platform built for the cloud age. Mac device management is a core part of the cloud identity management solution. In fact, Directory-as-a-Service provides system management capabilities that can be compared to GPOs for Windows from Active Directory. The key difference is that while AD is only focused on Windows, JumpCloud extends the concept of GPOs to all three of the major platforms (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux) via Directory-as-a-Service.

Check out our whiteboard video below to learn more about JumpCloud’s system management architecture:

In addition to system management, Directory-as-a-Service can also securely manage and connect user identities to cloud resources (e.g. G Suite, Office 365, Azure), web applications (e.g. Box, Zendesk, Salesforce), on-prem applications (e.g. Jenkins, Jira, OpenVPN), networks (e.g. wired and WiFi), Samba and NAS devices (e.g. Synology, FreeNAS, QNAP), and much more. The best part is that, as a 100% cloud-based directory service, Directory-as-a-Service does not require any on-premise hardware.

Learn more about Directory-as-a-Service

Get Started and Learn more about JumpCloud's ctive Directory® as a Service

To learn more about how Active Directory as a Service and Mac device management are possible with Directory-as-a-Service, drop us a note. You can also sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account and start managing Mac devices from the cloud today. Your first ten users are free forever.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and videographer at JumpCloud. Originally from a small village just outside of Albuquerque, he now calls Boulder home. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found doing creek stuff.

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