Can You Really Retire AD?

Written by Kayla Coco-Stotts on February 13, 2020

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Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) has been a mainstay for almost two decades, and for good reason. In response to the turn of the century’s transformation into a system-based workplace, IT professionals were able to leverage AD over every Windows® resource a user needed.

However, with the popular adoption of heterogeneous, cloud-based services came the downfall of AD, which struggled to manage resources outside the scope of Windows-based products. With IT admins grappling to get AD up to speed, they’ve begun to question whether retiring AD is really an option.

Why Replace Active Directory?

Why would IT admins even consider replacing Active Directory? In short, AD struggles to manage and connect users to their IT resources outside of the Windows-centric environment. This includes macOS® and Linux® systems, cloud and on-prem servers, web and legacy applications, physical and virtual file servers, and WiFi and VPN networks, among many others.

AD requires a significant amount of on-prem infrastructure to maintain, limiting IT admins in how they can interact with cloud-based services. If an admin wants to move their infrastructure entirely to the cloud, they need to completely abandon legacy servers and domain controllers. 

Additionally, group policy objects (GPOs) only work for Windows systems, meaning that IT admins need a host of third-party additions to manage Mac and Linux systems. Overall, IT departments have been shifting to AD replacements to ensure that users are securely authenticated and authorized to every resource they need. 

Is it Easy to Retire Active Directory?

In regards to implementing a high quality, modern alternative to legacy directory services, the next challenge becomes migration. JumpCloud® has made this possible through an approach that brings AD up to speed with contemporary resources without sacrificing familiarity or ease of access. 

Through an AD Integration path, IT organizations can keep AD as the authoritative solution, while extending identities to non-domain bound resources like web-based applications and non-Windows systems. In a sense, both AD and this domainless cloud directory run side-by-side, providing IT admins with the option to retire AD when ready. 

When and if admins are ready, they can migrate off AD by using tools such as the Active Directory Migration Utility (ADMU). In doing so, admins are able to free up the cost and time associated with on-prem infrastructure maintenance. Over time, most organizations will opt to leverage cloud identity management, but each organization should map out the path that works best for them.

Alternatives to Active Directory

Historically there haven’t been alternatives to Active Directory. IT organizations had to purchase third-party add-ons that sit on top of AD to cover any weaknesses.

Now, there are options for IT admins looking to move away from AD. Most specifically, there are cloud-based “as-a-Service” options that leverage directory-like capabilities without needing heavy, on-prem infrastructure or burdensome add-on fees. 

The best modern directory services have a few key characteristics:

  • Cloud-based & secure
  • Easy to manage & cost-effective
  • Easy to migrate to
  • Independent and able to adapt to a mixed-platform environment
  • Endpoint-centric so that an end user’s system is the gateway to all the resources they need

These key characteristics assist admins in employing every service they require to manage fleets of systems, users, networks, and applications, while still leveraging the flexibility and increased productivity that cloud directory services have to offer. 

JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service

JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS) caters to the IT admin who wants to leverage control over their users while providing those users with the access they desire to be able to use one core identity for a variety of systems (macOS, Windows, Linux), applications (Salesforce, Box), productivity suites (Office365 and G Suite), files, and networks. Interested in learning more? Check out our blog, which covers all things DaaS, or you and up to ten users can try out DaaS for free.

Kayla Coco-Stotts

Kayla is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in Print Journalism from the University of Kentucky. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and loves to eat good food and hike Boulder's beautiful trails when she is not writing.

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