Budgeting for Active Directory: Infrastructure

Written by Jon Griffin on February 7, 2018

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It is common knowledge that Microsoft® Active Directory’s® listed price is not the complete cost. However, far fewer understand how significant the full cost can be. It is all too common for the values you had modeled when implementing AD to not end up covering the full cost. On top of that, the service may not be as effective as you need it to be, thus incurring additional costs. In our previous blog post on how much to budget for Active Directory, we went through all of the underlying costs briefly. In this blog post, we will focus on the infrastructure cost component of AD and break it down a little more thoroughly.


identity management active directory

Infrastructure can encompass a broad range of topics. In regards to IT, infrastructure refers to the framework that supports your organization, generally composed of physical / virtual resources that support the flow, storage, processing, and analysis of data (Techtarget). Active Directory is a central component to the infrastructure for many organizations worldwide. But there are hardware requirements for AD as well. This typically comes in the form of physical or virtual servers, and load balancers.

Active Directory Infrastructure Requirements

The storage racks

When you’re building out a directory, like a series of domain controllers, you need the technical platforms to host it all on. You typically have two options when looking for these technical platforms. The first is physical servers. These, you can walk into a server closet and touch. The second is virtual infrastructure, which may be similar to your physical infrastructure but perhaps is hosted in your colocation centre. Virtual infrastructure could also potentially be through one of your cloud based infrastructure providers like AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and so on. Often times many of the companies have managed services to host your AD instance, but this is just another cost that you need to build in, as well as the added redundancy.

There’s no “one size fits all” formula for the costs of this infrastructure. There can be other ancillary pieces of infrastructure that we’ve seen that are usually dedicated to authentication and authorization infrastructure (i.e. your directory infrastructure, meaning load balancing for availability and redundancy). These make sure you have a direct and efficient way to navigate between server infrastructure. This setup is commonly found at the large enterprise organizations with five or ten thousand users and beyond. But load balancing infrastructure for dedicated user authentication is another area that you need to factor in, depending upon your size. Load balancing is a critical service to ensure that you have optimized resource use, maximized throughput, minimal response time, and no overloads on a specific resource [Wikipedia]. Load balancers are just another item that must be added to the list of additional costs.

With most of these underlying costs in AD, you might see a pattern emerge:  the need for redundancy. If there is an assumption made, and it is revolving around infrastructure or a different networking or administrative need, you will need to factor in redundancy. The amount of redundancy necessary is something that is dependant on each company, but in most cases we see about a 1:1 ratio – one direct domain controller in prod and then a failover. The failover is a necessary evil to keep access going for your end users. Purchasing and maintaining a redundant domain controller is another item to add to the list of hidden costs.

Make Sure Infrastructure is Accounted for

If you would like to learn more about budgeting for the infrastructure costs of Active Directory, make sure you reach out to us. We have a knowledgeable team that can answer any of the questions that you might have. They can also get you access to our AD ROI calculator, a tool we made that enables you to discover what your true cost would be. Infrastructure is just one of the many areas that will create additional expenses that you may not have planned for. Check out the rest of the hidden costs.

Jon Griffin

Jon Griffin works as a writer for JumpCloud, an organization focused on bringing centralized IT to the modern organization. He graduated with a degree in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and is an avid learner of new technology from cloud-based innovations to VR and more.

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