Azure Active Directory in the Cloud

Written by Natalie Bluhm on July 18, 2019

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Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) was a long awaited cloud solution for those using Active Directory.

Hopes were high. Would Azure AD be the replacement to the on-prem, legacy Active Directory? Would Azure AD be the answer for easier Mac and Linux management?

Would it finally allow IT admins to take advantage of AWS and other cloud infrastructure? Will employees at last be connected to applications they need? Will defenses finally be tightened with WiFi/network authentication?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Hopes for a modern directory service with optimized identity and access management services were not found in Microsoft’s cloud solution. Azure AD does not equal a cloud version of Active Directory.

But, first, let’s make sure we understand what pushed Microsoft to release Azure AD in the cloud to begin with and then let’s take a closer look at what Azure AD ended up being.

The Story Behind Azure Active Directory in the Cloud  

Active Directory was created shortly after the LDAP protocol emerged. Microsoft built it so that it works best with Windows systems, applications, and networks (Windows was the preferred platform for workplace environments at the time), and this ensured Active Directory’s dominance in the directory service market – at least up until the mid 2000’s.

Then, the number of resources an employee needed dramatically increased with the introduction of SaaS-based web applications, the emergence of Mac and Linux systems in work environments, and the advent of cloud infrastructure. Active Directory had a hard time managing identities and access to all of these new, modern, and innovative resources, and especially with their cloud infrastructure and solutions at Azure, so Microsoft created Azure Active Directory.

Active Directory fails in the cloud

However, Azure AD is not a cloud version of Active Directory, nor can IT admins replace Active Directory with Azure Active Directory, made clear by a Microsoft employee in this Spiceworks post. Instead, IT admins implementing Azure still require an on-prem Active Directory server. Then they can use Azure AD to assist with managing user access to Office 365 and Azure. Azure AD in the cloud isn’t a replacement for AD nor is it a complete directory service in the cloud, but all hope is not lost because Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS) offers an optimized, cloud based solution.

DaaS – A True, Modern Directory Service in the Cloud

Directory-as-a-Service is an alternative to Azure AD in the cloud and a replacement for AD. You can replace all Microsoft identity management tools with Directory-as-a-Service and still be able to manage all of your Microsoft infrastructure (and everything else). You’ll finally gain the following:

If you would like to learn more about Directory-as-a-Service as an alternative to Azure Active Directory in the Cloud, drop us a note. Feel free to conduct a side-by-side comparison with our cloud identity management platform and Azure AD by signing up for our free account. Your first 10 users are free forever.

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