Recently, Microsoft has been pushing its customers to move to the cloud-based Azure Active Directory product from the on-premises Active Directory version. It’s a smart move on Microsoft’s part as it is intended to lock its customers in with Active Directory for another technology cycle.
AD has been the solution of choice for directory services for over 15 years. AD has helped Microsoft sell a great deal of Windows Server licenses because it is included with that product. As Microsoft’s own CEO has said, Active Directory is one of the most critical assets to Microsoft. AD is key part of Microsoft’s strategy to maintain its stranglehold on a number of application areas, including email, collaboration, and others.
Size Up Your Options
The question for most organizations then becomes, is Azure Active Directory the best choice for their directory services?
Historically, AD has been the only game in town. It was the default choice for most organizations for a few reasons:
- it’s what IT admins knew
- they had homogenous Microsoft-based networks
- there were no other viable options
Recently, however, in the cloud directory services space, a credible alternative has emerged – it’s called Directory-as-a-Service®. Whether Azure AD or DaaS is right for you depends on your requirements. Both solutions can be potential fits, but it is dependent upon your philosophy as well as your existing and future infrastructure.
If you are an all-Microsoft network and your devices and applications are almost exclusively Microsoft, then it is very likely that Azure AD is going to work well for you. Active Directory has been optimized for Windows machines and applications. If, on the other hand, you are leveraging other platforms, such as Macs or Linux devices, then Azure AD isn’t going to satisfy your needs. For non-Windows platforms, a vendor agnostic solution is your better choice to achieve deep control over user management and devices themselves. Directory-as-a-Service connects to and manages Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
Cloud-Based or On-Premises
It is important to consider what being cloud based really means to you. Are you comfortable with using Azure AD in the cloud while utilizing AD on-premises? Or do you want everything to be in the cloud as is the case with Directory-as-a-Service? What about your infrastructure: how much is on-premises and how much is in the cloud? and, more importantly, what types of resources do you have and where? For example, if you are leveraging AWS or Google Compute Engine, you will struggle to connect all of that infrastructure back to Azure AD.
Central Device Control
Central device management is a critical requirement for most IT organizations. If your organization is leveraging multiple platforms, then centrally managing all of those devices becomes more difficult with Azure AD. You’ll need to extend AD with another solution that will manage the Macs and Linux devices in your environment. Directory-as-a-Service can centrally manage all three platforms.
Directory-as-a-Service Fits The Cloud-Forward Movement
Azure AD is Microsoft’s answer to so many organizations moving to the cloud. While it is a smart move for their company, is it a smart move for you? What is your organization going to look like over the coming years: will you be heterogeneous? will you move more to the cloud? and are you interested in central control over all of your users and devices? If so, you will want to compare Azure AD with Directory-as-a-Service to see which is the better fit for you.