Azure Active Directory Alternative

Written by Greg Keller on December 4, 2015

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Microsoft is pushing Azure Active Directory as an extension of the on-premises Active Directory or even a replacement in some cases. Of course, with Azure Active Directory you are still tightly integrated with Microsoft’s platforms, including Windows, Azure, and Office 365. Microsoft’s CEO has asserted that  Active Directory is arguably the most important piece of software in their organization. And, with an organization under siege from cloud providers everywhere, Azure Active Directory may just be the most important piece within the Active Directory family.

Azure: Working within the Microsoft Limits

While Azure Active Directory will undoubtedly be appropriate for some use cases, there will be others where it will not be a good fit. It will most likely be successful in cases where the organization is a homogenous Microsoft network and is using Azure or Office 365. In most instances, Azure AD will be connected and fed by the on-premises Active Directory instance already in place. The two will be in sync and the cloud-based instance of AD can be leveraged by Azure services.

For organizations that are not deeply connected to Microsoft but are more heterogeneous, Azure Active Directory will often not meet their needs. For these organizations, connecting and controlling user access to other platforms will be critical. For example, the organization may have Macs or Linux devices. They may be leveraging AWS or Google Compute Engine for their Infrastructure-as-a-Service. LDAP applications may be a part of their mix or even SaaS applications. All of these IT resources need user access control and in the case of devices, management. Azure Active Directory isn’t an option for most organizations with a heterogeneous infrastructure because of lack of support.

DaaS Solutions that Reach Beyond the Microsoft Bounds

In these use cases, an alternative is available to IT organizations. It’s called Directory-as-a-Service, and it is a stand-alone cloud-based directory service. DaaS, as it is often referred to, is a cross-platform user and device management service. It connects users to Mac and Linux devices in addition to Windows machines. Directory-as-a-Service can also connect users to applications including those leveraging LDAP. Often, an organization also wants to connect their WiFi instracture to their directory service via RADIUS, and that can be accomplished via DaaS, too. For those organizations that already have Active Directory on-premises and are interested in extending their on-premises directory with a cloud-based directory, Directory-as-a-Service can serve that use case as well.

As mentioned above, Azure Active Directory will work well in some use instances. But in the many cases where it isn’t a fit, there are alternatives. Directory-as-a-Service solutions are an excellent choice for a cross-platform directory service that can serve your needs to connect and manage users and IT resources. Feel free to drop us a note to learn more, or you can try JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform for free.

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