Authenticating Macs Against Azure Active Directory

By Rajat Bhargava Posted September 30, 2016

With the move to cloud-hosted directory services, there is a common question that comes up relative to Azure Active Directory® (Azure AD). That question is, “Can you authenticate Mac devices against Azure Active Directory?” The more specific thought process is whether Azure AD can serve as the core identity provider for on-premises devices such as Macs. Let’s take a closer look below.

Azure Active Directory Authenticates Inside Azure

Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory was designed to be the authentication source for Windows devices located at Azure. This is largely similar to how AWS Directory Services works. It is really meant to be an authentication source within the network. Azure AD doesn’t connect to devices that are on-premises or with other cloud infrastructure providers such as AWS. Azure AD is primarily used within Azure and also when Microsoft Active Directory is present.

Microsoft designed Azure AD to be an adjunct to the on-premises Active Directory identity provider. In Microsoft’s model, identities are stored in the core, authoritative directory service located on-premises. AD and Azure AD connect in order for the identities to be used in Azure. This model makes the most sense for large organizations that have AD on-prem and also are likely all Microsoft Windows.

Limits of Storing Identities within Active Directory


Unfortunately, that model doesn’t work for many modern, cloud-forward organizations.

Almost all of these organizations have a mixed-platform environment. Many are leveraging Google Apps or Office 365 for their productivity platform. AWS or another cloud infrastructure is a part of their IT approach too.

And, perhaps most important, these organizations are opting to forgo Microsoft Active Directory. No identity provider is on-premises, which belies the model Microsoft has articulated with Azure AD. As a result, organizations are forced to store identities within Azure Active Directory which works for IT resources hosted at Azure.

Identities aren’t able to be exported to non-Windows resources that are not hosted in Azure without additional directory extension utilities. Consequently, on-prem macOS systems can’t authenticate with Azure AD without first adding significant cost and complexity to the environment.

Authenticating Macs Without Restrictions

Unmanaged Macs

There is another path that allows IT admins to not only leverage Azure but also authenticate their Macs and other non-Azure IT resources. Leveraging a core, cloud-based identity provider that can connect user identities to a wide variety of resources, including on-premises systems, cloud infrastructure, SaaS applications, and WiFi is the better approach for modern, cloud-forward organizations.

The Directory-as-a-Service® platform from JumpCloud is able to federate identities to Azure, Google Apps, AWS, SSO solutions, and more. It’s an open platform that centralizes user management across the entire organization.

One identity is securely leveraged across the entire IT infrastructure.

One Directory To Rule Them All®

If you are interested in authenticating Macs to Azure Active Directory, put JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform in as your core identity provider. Your Azure AD identities will be the same ones that your users leverage for their Macs.

As an IT pro, you will get full control over Mac user management and device management while still being able to leverage Azure, AWS, or Google Compute Engine. You get to choose the best platforms for your organization but still have a single identity provider.


To learn more about how JumpCloud’s cloud-hosted directory service can support your desire to move to the cloud, drop us a note. In addition, give JumpCloud’s Identity-as-a-Service platform a try for yourself. Your first 10 users are free forever.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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