AWS® Cloud Directory vs Azure® Active Directory®

Written by Ryan Squires on July 26, 2018

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Amazon Web Services® (AWS) has been pushing their new solution dubbed Cloud Directory. But, one of the challenges facing AWS stems from how exactly the term cloud directory is defined. So often when we hear the term directory, whether its proceeded by the word cloud or active, we begin to think of how Microsoft® has defined the term, directory services, for the past two decades. So, is it fair to compare AWS Cloud Directory vs Azure® Active Directory®?

Two Directories Alike in Name Only

AWS Cloud vs Azure Active Directory

While both are “cloud directory” solutions, they are actually very different. AWS Cloud Directory functions more like a database that creates hierarchical relationships between objects. Some of the examples that AWS provides for this platform are: creating organizational charts, automobile fleet management systems, and HR systems. Amazon’s goal with AWS Cloud Directory is to provide a platform that IT organizations and developers can build upon, much like the rest of AWS’s  infrastructure platform. Most IT and development organizations can’t use AWS Cloud Directory “out-of-the-box” without significant work.

AWS is Not a Directory Service

It is also important to note that while the solution is called AWS Cloud Directory, it does not function as a directory service like we’re used to with Microsoft Active Directory (MAD or AD). Authentication services are not a part of the platform nor are they the focus. This is the main difference when it comes to AWS Cloud Directory vs Azure Active Directory. AWS Cloud Directory functions more like a database, while Azure Active Directory is focused on identity management for the cloud. However, another thing to note is that while Microsoft is pushing Azure AD as their cloud directory, it isn’t even a complete replacement for their traditional on-prem offering. In short, Azure is merely a complement to on-prem AD. Clearly, Azure AD and AWS Cloud Directory have two very different definitions for what a cloud directory service is, and, unfortunately, both are not what most IT admins have in mind for a cloud directory.

A True Cloud Directory

JumpCloud is the Key

As discussed above, Microsoft set the standard for on-prem directory services nearly two decades ago, so it is easy to understand why IT admins define the term “directory” in a highly specific way. IT admins identify a directory service as a tool that connects users to all of the IT resources they need, and this is what they expect from a cloud directory service. IT admins are looking for a cloud identity management solution from the cloud that can authenticate applications via SAML and LDAP (Salesforce®, Jira®, etc.), cloud and on-prem servers (e.g. AWS, GCP, Azure), file servers both in the cloud and on-prem (Samba file servers, NAS appliances, Box, Google Drive, etc.), productivity platforms (e.g., Office 365, G Suite) and wired and WiFi networks through RADIUS. JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® is that solution, and because it’s platform agnostic, you’ll be able to access all these resources from Windows®, Mac®, and Linux® systems.

So instead of thinking about how to allocate your IT resources in the debate over AWS Cloud Directory vs Azure Active Directory, it may be a better option to look towards a modern cloud hosted directory service like JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service. Cut through the clutter and use JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service to authenticate, authorize, and manage your users and IT resources today with a free account that’s good for the first 10 users forever. Drop us a line, we’d love to talk to you about how we can help your organization.

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

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