Is Azure AD a Replacement for Active Directory?

Written by Greg Keller on October 25, 2016

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Microsoft has been making a massive push into the cloud. Azure is competing heavily with both AWS and Google G Suite. These two companies have been putting significant pressure on Microsoft to compete in the cloud.

A byproduct of the move to the cloud has been the introduction of Azure Active Directory. Many IT admins are wondering whether Azure Active Directory is an Active Directory replacement.

Azure AD is an Extension, Not a Replacement for Active Directory

The simple answer to this question is “No, Azure AD is not a replacement to Active Directory.”


In fact, Microsoft’s strategy with Azure AD and AD is for them to be complementary to each other. AD is still the core directory service for an organization. It is still hosted on-prem and predominantly works with Windows-based systems and applications. Azure AD is meant to be the cloud-based directory services extension and the directory service for Azure-related systems and services.

Azure AD does not have the ability to authenticate on-prem systems such as Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. AWS and Google Compute Engine devices are out of Azure AD’s purview as well. As a result, Azure AD looks like a cloud directory service for within Azure. This makes a great deal of sense from Microsoft’s perspective because their Active Directory platform is intended for the on-prem part of an organization’s network. In addition, Active Directory integrates tightly with Azure AD. This gives an all Microsoft shop the ability to federate identities to the cloud.

But What if You Aren’t All Windows?

The Azure AD and AD combination is generally an unworkable solution for organizations that aren’t based on Microsoft Windows or for organizations that also leverage AWS, Google Apps, web applications, and more.


The identity management infrastructure now becomes more complicated for an IT organization. Instead of moving to one cloud-based directory service, you now have a directory service on-prem and then a cloud directory for only your Azure services. If you are using other cloud infrastructure providers, you are out of luck. As a result, Azure AD isn’t a replacement for Active Directory.

JumpCloud is Your Active Directory Alternative

IT organizations looking for an Active Directory alternative should look at Directory-as-a-Service®. This cloud-hosted directory service seamlessly integrates with a wide variety of systems, applications, and networks.


Instead of having to focus on just Windows and then manage other platforms separately, Directory-as-a-Service integrates all of your disparate platforms: Mac, Windows, and Linux whether they are located in the cloud, on-prem, or mobile; and with a variety of different protocols, including LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, and SSH. The benefit for IT organizations is to have a central user management platform that enables you to choose whatever solutions are best for the organization rather than those that are best for Active Directory.

Try Our Cloud-Hosted Directory Service

Want to learn more about how Directory-as-a-Service is the cloud-hosted directory service replacement for Active Directory and Azure AD? Drop us a note. Also, please try our Identity-as-a-Service platform for yourself. Your first 10 users are free forever.

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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