Cloud-Based System Management

Written by Vince Lujan on February 23, 2018

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Cloud-based system management is an exciting new category that has caught the attention of many IT admins. The excitement comes from the fact that the ability to manage systems has historically required complex on-prem solutions like Microsoft®  Systems Management Server (SMS), now called the System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or even Active Directory® (AD), for example.

While Microsoft tools such as these have served IT admins well for many years, they have a number of limitations with modern networks that cannot be ignored. Add to that, the fact that many IT organizations are looking to shift their on-prem IT infrastructure to the cloud, and it is easy to see why the concept of cloud-based system management is so enticing.

Fortunately, cloud-based system management is a core function of the next generation cloud identity management platform called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. In short, IT admins are empowered to manage cross-platform fleets of systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux) from one central management platform in the cloud. However, before we dive into the advantages of system management with the JumpCloud platform, we should outline how IT admins have traditionally approached system management from a high level.

The Evolution of System Management

The system management space has produced a number of interesting solutions over the years. Most of which are relics from the client/server era, such as Tivoli, HP OpenView, BigFix, and more. However, these types of solutions were focused on a wider range of device types, including routers, switches, servers, and more. It wasn’t until Microsoft introduced tools like SMS, and later Active Directory, that the modern concept of centralized management for Windows-based user systems was established.

evolution of directory services

System Management with SMS

The System Management Server (SMS) was one of Microsoft’s first attempts to provide system management capabilities for IT networks. SMS was introduced in 1994. It was developed to help IT admins manage large numbers of systems running Windows NT, Windows Embedded, and other early versions of the Windows operating system. In other words, IT admins could deploy software updates, manage network access, and configure other systems tasks that could be administered from one central management platform, rather than locally on the system itself. (Wiki)

Before Cloud-Based System Management there was system management with SMS

SMS was certainly effective at helping IT admins manage on-prem IT networks, especially in the early days. In fact, it was later adapted for use with Microsoft Azure® to provide some system and MDM management capabilities from the cloud. SMS was rebranded as SCCM in 2007.

System Management with Active Directory

Active Directory took the concept of system management a step further than SMS with introduction of the Group Policy functionality. Group Policy describes the ability for AD admins to deploy prescribed commands and scripts to fleets of Windows-based systems from one central management platform. Microsoft refers to these commands and scripts as Group Policy Objects (GPOs).

Cloud-Based System Management is not possible with Active Directory

In essence, GPOs enable IT admins to manage fleets of Windows-based systems from one central management platform. Of course, IT admins were able to do this with SMS as well. One aspect that sets the AD Group Policy feature apart is that GPOs are much easier to use. For example, AD provides a robust GPO library that IT admins can leverage for just about any system management scenario. In doing so, IT admins enjoy a more streamlined approach to group based policy management.

Modern System Management Requirements

There is no doubt that AD, and SCCM for that matter, are powerful tools. The issue for modern IT organizations is the native system management capabilities for both solutions have been built from the ground-up for Windows-based systems. Of course, this wasn’t necessarily an issue when AD and SCCM (SMS at the time) were introduced in the 1990s, given that Windows-based users and IT resources were already the vast majority. Nevertheless, modern IT networks have expanded to include non-Windows systems and IT resources. AD and SCCM have struggled to stay relevant, as a result. Add to that, the fact that IT organizations want to eliminate their on-prem IT infrastructure altogether, and it’s easy to see how a cloud-based system management platform would be helpful.

Modern IT needs Cloud-Based System Management

Cloud-Based System Management with Directory-as-a-Service

The good news is that a next generation cloud-based system management platform has emerged that not only securely connects users to their systems, but also their applications, files, and networks. It’s called JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service, and it is changing the way IT admins think about system management. For example, the JumpCloud platform can be used to deploy prescribed commands and scripts, similarly to SCCM, except across all three major platforms. These are called JumpCloud Commands. JumpCloud can also help to manage fleets of systems with cross platform GPO-like capabilities. We refer to them as JumpCloud Policies. However, what sets JumpCloud Commands and Policies apart is they work for cross-platform system environments (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux), rather than just Windows.

Cloud-Based System Management with JumpCloud

Another key benefit with the JumpCloud platform is that the full functionality of the platform is delivered from the cloud. That means JumpCloud effectively eliminates the need to build and maintain on-prem IT management infrastructure. This is in contrast to the heavily on-prem environments of both AD and SCCM. JumpCloud enables IT admins to sit back and enjoy the benefits of a comprehensive Directory-as-a-Service solution with integrated system management. In doing so, IT admins can focus on more important tasks like choosing the best resources for the organization.

Learn More About Cloud-Based System Management

Check out our whiteboard presentation to learn more about managing systems with JumpCloud. You can also sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account, or schedule a demo to see our cloud-based system management platform in action. Your first ten users are free forever to help you discover the full functionality of our platform at no cost. Contact the JumpCloud team today if you have any questions.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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