Apache Directory vs Active Directory

Written by Greg Keller on November 19, 2019

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As IT admins evaluate their choice in directory services, they will often consider the open-source solution Apache Directory™ vs Active Directory®.

This is an interesting comparison because Apache is built on a foundation of LDAP v3, but it supports Kerberos as well. Active Directory also supports both LDAP and Kerberos. So, what is the difference between Apache Directory and Active Directory? More importantly, which is better for your organization?

Overlap in Functionality

Before we get into differences, we should first discuss some similarities.

  • Both directory services were created around the same timeframe in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Their underlying foundation has been LDAP, but both have expanded to include Kerberos as a means to authenticate devices and applications.
  • Both systems are hosted on-prem and managed by IT admins.

In addition, both offer a number of options and extensions to enable different features on top of identity management. These features can include enforcing strong passwords and executing tasks or commands.

Differences Between Apache Directory vs Active Directory

The differences between the two platforms are largely a matter of focus.


Apache Directory is an open-source platform and largely aimed at the developer and highly technical audience. The solution has a number of capabilities and enables developers to customize and embed the solution into their infrastructure or software. While it is likely that LDAP and Kerberos can authenticate Windows®, macOS®, and Linux® devices, it doesn’t appear to favor those capabilities. The discussion in the user documentation centers much more on applications and largely those that can leverage LDAP.

Active Directory Replacement

Active Directory, on the other hand, is a commercial option for directory services aimed at Windows-based networks. AD has deep integration for Windows devices and applications. In fact, Active Directory has a feature called Group Policy Objects (GPOs) that enables IT admins to execute policies and tasks on Windows devices. Active Directory is by far the market share leader in on-prem directory services.

Cloud-Hosted Directory Service Alternative

Both Apache Directory and Active Directory are potentially excellent solutions for very specific on-prem use cases. As the world has moved to the cloud, a third option has emerged to solve the cross-platform cloud directory services problem.

Learn More About JumpCloud

Known as JumpCloud Directory Platform, this solution is a central, cloud-based identity provider. It supports a variety of protocols, including LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, SSH, and REST, among others. It also has native integration with Windows, macOS, and Linux devices. Integration includes full user and device management capabilities. Cloud platforms, for example, G Suite™ and Microsoft Office 365™, are seamlessly integrated as well. The Directory-as-a-Service solution also levels-up the authentication process by enabling SSH keys and multi-factor authentication.

In short, a cloud-hosted directory service is a complete solution for organizations moving to the cloud that don’t want to manage on-prem, legacy directory services solutions.


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If you are comparing Apache Directory vs Active Directory, drop us a note. We think that adding our cloud directory service to the mix would be an excellent alternative. Feel free to also sign up for a free 30 Day Trial to see the benefits of our complete platform firsthand.

Greg Keller

JumpCloud CTO, Greg Keller is a career product visionary and executive management leader. With over two decades of product management, product marketing, and operations experience ranging from startups to global organizations, Greg excels in successful go-to-market execution.

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