Can Google Cloud IAM Be Used as a Directory?

Written by Zach DeMeyer on September 14, 2018

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® has recently introduced a new solution to their Cloud Platform. The solution is called Google Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM), and it is currently in the beta stage. Because of its novelty, many IT admins are wondering what the impact of this cloud identity management solution is. Specifically, can Google Cloud IAM be used as a directory service similar to the on-prem Microsoft® Active Directory®?

The Google Cloud Platform

In order to understand why some are considering using Google Cloud IAM as a directory, it’s important to look at Google’s Cloud Platform stance as a whole. With the introduction of G Suite™ (formerly Google Apps), Google took their first foray into the enterprise-level, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) productivity suite game. Their primary target with G Suite was replacing Microsoft Office®, Exchange®, and Windows® File Server with a unified cloud-based solution.

As far as offering a cloud-driven productivity suite goes, G Suite met the target with aplomb. Over four million customers paid for the solution last year, with even more jumping on the bandwagon this year. When it comes to being a dominant player in the productivity suite scene, G Suite is king, sitting at 63.75% of market share, compared to Microsoft’s competing product, Office 365™ (which holds 36.23%). While they have certainly seemed to blow Microsoft out of the water in the productivity suite arena with G Suite, Google’s intention wasn’t to compete with Active Directory (AD) in directory services, but rather be a complement to it.

Because of AD’s dominance in the directory service market and its deep roots on-prem, it seemed a futile task to try to take it on with a cloud-based solution. So, Google instead decided to integrate with AD. With the introduction of GADS (Google Apps Directory Sync or now called GCDC – Google Cloud Directory Sync), Google bridged the gap between their cloud offerings and Active Directory. GCDS enables IT admins to connect their on-prem AD to G Suite and other parts of the Google Cloud Platform. As a result, admins could continue to leverage AD as the core directory and federate user identities throughout the Google ecosystem.

Google Cloud IAM as a Directory?

G Suite Google Identity Management Challenges

The challenge that many IT admins are facing is that, by leveraging part of their infrastructure in the cloud and the other on-prem, there arises a disconnect between the two sides, not to mention a sharp uptick in the work involved to manage them both.

In an ideal world, Google Cloud IAM would fill such a void. Unfortunately, while it may resemble one, Google Cloud IAM is not a comprehensive cloud directory service. Cloud IAM is primarily focused on access to Google Cloud Platform. For organizations that still leverage on-prem applications, Cloud IAM falls short, unable to manage access to them. On top of that, Cloud IAM does not handle system management for Windows®, Mac®, and Linux® either, a key function of any good directory.

There is, however, a third party solution that tightly integrates with both Google services and on-prem IT resources alike. With this cloud IDaaS solution, admins can manage systems, servers, applications, files, and networks, no matter their platform, provider, or location. This solution is called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

Cloud Directory for Google and More

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) is the first of a new generation of cloud-based directory services. By leveraging the LDAP, SAML, and RADIUS protocols (among others), the DaaS platform connects user identities to the applications (on-prem and in the cloud) and networks they need. Featuring G Suite integration, JumpCloud bridges the gap between your Google Cloud Platform accounts and a directory service in one jump, all leveraged from the cloud.

To learn more how you can use JumpCloud as your directory for Google Cloud Platform and other Google services and tools, contact us or schedule a demo of the DaaS product. You’ll learn why Google Cloud IAM isn’t really a directory service, but really a complement to a comprehensive cloud identity management solution. Our support team will happily guide you through the JumpCloud platform. Signing up for JumpCloud can also give you access to Directory-as-a-Service, and it is absolutely free. By signing up, you can utilize ten users in the DaaS platform to get started.

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