Active Directory as-a-Service

Written by Vince Lujan on October 7, 2020

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Updated on December 1, 2021

We at JumpCloud often get the question, “So are you guys like Active Directory-as-a-Service?” 

It’s a natural question when you consider some of the cloud directory services we offer. It also makes sense because there is such a large number of people who would love to shift their Active Directory instance to the cloud and have it delivered to them as a service. Even Microsoft has tried to think about this area with their Azure Active Directory solution, which it should be noted isn’t AD in the cloud.

In fact, JumpCloud does not take Active Directory and host it and manage it as a service. Instead, we provide broad cloud directory services to organizations and deliver that as a SaaS-based service. The core identity provider is based on our own proprietary cloud directory platform and then we supplement it with a wide range of authentication and management protocols such as LDAP, RADIUS, SAML, SCIM, Samba, MDM, SSH, and more.

Why Not Deliver AD as a Service? 

Microsoft believes that Active Directory represents one its most important software assets – and we agree! But that doesn’t mean we wanted it to be the foundation of our cloud directory platform.

Why not? Microsoft Active Directory is a legacy enterprise solution (over 20 years old now!) that is struggling to make the leap to modern IT environments. We’ve written before about the hidden costs of running Active Directory. AD’s weaknesses include heterogeneous environments, cloud infrastructure, and SaaS-based applications. It’s really just much better in a homogenous on-prem Windows environment. Even when coupled with Azure AD, which is how Microsoft suggests you use the two, it struggles to full manage and support a modern IT organization.

So, as we embarked on our journey to build a modern directory services solution, we knew that starting with Active Directory as a base would not work. The downside of our decision, of course, is that there are millions of organizations that currently use Active Directory and ultimately need to move off of it. I’m sure that many of them would like a quick solution of shifting AD to a cloud instance. But the truth is that if IT organizations did that, they wouldn’t take advantage of the amazing innovations in IT that are happening now from IaaS to microservices to new device platforms, and more.

Bridging the Gap from AD to JumpCloud 

As we thought about the best way to migrate organizations from Active Directory and move them to JumpCloud, we knew that our migration strategy needed to be seamless. Organizations that are already leveraging AD wanted to move off of it in a way that wasn’t disruptive to the organization. That’s a tall order for something so fundamental as a directory.

The seamless solution we’ve discovered and developed is two-fold. First, organizations can make the shift completely using our AD Migration Utility (ADMU). This is right for those organizations that are ready to move to a modern cloud directory platform. For those that aren’t ready to completely shift their identity management to the cloud, but would like to extend AD to non-Windows and cloud platforms can use our Active Directory Integration platform.

AD Integration bi-directionally syncs users between AD and JumpCloud in a seamless way. Any updates that happen in AD are automatically propagated to JumpCloud and vice versa. In fact, many organizations can completely run their AD infrastructure from the JumpCloud management console. This allows JumpCloud to run in parallel with AD so that IT admins can ensure that everything is running smoothly before making the complete migration or simply use both platforms as long as viable.

Looking for a Cloud Based Directory Service?

Organizations have been asking the question, “Can I run Active Directory as a Service?” But that question is broadening into, “Can I run directory services in the cloud and as a managed service?” 

Said more simply, it’s “Is Directory-as-a-Service available?” The answer is yes, and it’s available from JumpCloud.

Drop us a note if you are thinking about this topic or if you’d like to give JumpCloud a try, sign-up for 10 free users forever on our site. You also get 10 systems free as well as 10 days for 24×7 in-app premium support.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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