Beyond Active Directory: Mac, Linux, SaaS, & IaaS

By Cassa Niedringhaus Posted October 15, 2019

Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) revolutionized identity and access management (IAM) and was ideal for its time. Because of this, it still has a stronghold in the market, even as organizations look beyond Windows®-based systems, applications, and other resources in their daily operations. Today, more than ever, organizations demand IT admins look beyond AD and integrate Mac® and Linux® systems, Software-as-a-Service applications, and cloud-based infrastructure — none of which AD seemingly can handle alone.

Demands of Modern IT

The SaaS market is a juggernaut, and it’s predicted to reach $157 billion globally by next year. Beyond that, more employees expect Macs in the workplace, an avenue that might become even more desirable to take as Microsoft looks to end extended support for Windows 7 (unless an SMB wants to purchase it at significant cost).

So, what’s an IT admin to do in the face of competing demands and a limited budget? After all, many IT organizations are deeply rooted in AD, and uprooting AD infrastructure is a process that can be extremely difficult without the right tools and support.

Active Directory Add-Ons

Some organizations purchase a variety of add-on solutions to bolster their AD instance for the cloud era. As cloud resources expanded after the introduction of AD, several niches emerged for new vendors and protocols to fill, linking AD to non-Microsoft resources and building around it as the central, authoritative source of identity. Think single sign-on for Salesforce (i.e web applications) or an identity bridge for Mac or Linux systems. 

IT admins going this route have to develop a blended IAM solution that includes AD, identity bridges, web application single-sign-on (SSO) point solutions, and other AD add-ons. This blend can increase costs and overhead and is not necessarily an ideal overall approach to identity management. It is, however, better than no directory: Manually updating 50 systems annually might cost an organization 1,800 hours and more than $60,000 that could be better spent elsewhere. 

Still, though, there’s room for further improvement and simplification of the process to allow IT admins to spend less time putting out fires and more time strategizing and planning for the future.

Unified AD Solution

If AD is still in an organization’s mix, the best way to federate identities to non-Windows and cloud-based resources is to use a unified solution that eliminates the need for other add-ons, and enables IT admins to keep their current AD infrastructure in place.

The philosophy with AD Integration and similar tools is that employees can access all the resources they need to get their jobs done, no matter where they’re working, with one set of credentials, while keeping AD as the core identity provider. IT admins can automate onboarding and offboarding and increase security by reducing employees to one set of credentials, as well as ease their own workload by simplifying the links between AD and all their other resources.

Another option is a completely cloud-based directory, which eliminates the need for AD and on-prem maintenance. Major players in the IT landscape are now exploring and advancing solutions that allow IT admins to rid their organizations of domain controllers and move those operations entirely to the cloud instead of walking the balancing beam between on-prem servers and other resources.

Learn More

If you’re looking to simplify and centralize your IT environment by going beyond Active Directory, contact us today. If you’d like to see this AD Integration platform in action, sign-up for a free account add see for yourself. Your first 10 users and systems are free forever.

Cassa Niedringhaus

Cassa is a content writer at JumpCloud with a degree in Magazine Writing from the University of Missouri. When she’s not at work, she likes to hike, ski and read.

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