Binding Linux with Azure Active Directory

Written by Greg Keller on October 13, 2016

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Linux machines have dramatically grown in popularity over the past decade. What once was a niche operating system is now a mainstay. Linux adoption is on the rise [Wikipedia]. In fact, it is more popular in the data center than Microsoft Windows.

That’s a stark change over the past decade or two. Linux is also making its way into the desktop. While it is still infrequently used as a desktop OS, Linux has clearly established itself as one of the operating systems that IT organizations need to manage. The question for IT with both server and desktop Linux OSs is, how do you manage those platforms?

Contemplating Binding Linux with Azure Active Directory?


A foundational element of managing each platform is user management. It is vital to security to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the device. Now, more than ever before, this is a mission critical issue because essential workloads are increasingly placed on Linux devices.

Historically, Linux user management has been handled manually. IT or system admins would just log into the Linux machine and create, delete, or modify user settings. In recent times, configuration automation solutions have been all the rage. Unfortunately, while they give you some leverage, you need to write code to make it happen.

IT is looking everywhere for solutions. Even Microsoft’s new addition, Azure Active Directory, is being considered in binding linux.

Struggling to Manage and Authenticate Users on Linux?


The on-prem Microsoft Active Directory has struggled to manage and authenticate users on Linux devices. While it is possible, it is difficult.

But while you may be able to bind Linux machines with AD with some fancy footwork, the same cannot be said for Azure Active Directory. On-prem Linux devices and those hosted at other Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms are on their own. AWS, Google Compute Engine, and Digital Ocean are some good examples of infrastructure components you can’t manage from Azure AD.

Azure AD has been largely focused on managing users within Azure. This is a great win for some organizations, and they can benefit from that support. For most organizations, though, Azure AD is a cloud directory service silo that works well with Azure but not elsewhere. Organizations that have standardized on Azure and don’t care about managing their on-prem users and devices may have found a viable solution in Azure AD.

Consider Managing Linux Users and Devices via DaaS


The good news is that there are other ways to bind Linux machines with a cloud directory service, regardless of where those Linux machines are. The Directory-as-a-Service® platform from JumpCloud serves as an independent cloud directory that can authenticate users on Linux devices, no matter their location. Linux devices can be at AWS, Google Compute Engine, on-prem, or even at Azure. JumpCloud’s unified cloud directory handles all of those cases and more.

If you have Linux devices and are looking to manage users on those machines, drop us a note. JumpCloud’s Identity-as-a-Service platform may be an interesting option for you. Binding Linux with Azure Active Directory is a non-starter, but there are other options for those looking to a cloud directory for that function. Also, feel free to give JumpCloud’s SaaS directory service a try. 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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