By Vince Lujan Posted April 28, 2018
The changing IT landscape is driving new initiatives and focus for IT organizations. One area that is foundational for an organization is their identity management strategy. In this post, we discuss why cloud directory services should be a priority in your IT organization, but let’s take a quick look at traditional directory services first.
Traditional Directory Services
Directory services have never been at the top of a CIO’s priority list. In fact, it is unlikely that a CIO or VP of IT has ever spent that much time on this topic. This is typically because the identity provider was likely already in place long before senior IT management was ever hired.
For almost two decades, IT organizations have simply installed Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) and moved on. This approach made a great deal of sense, given that the IT infrastructure was virtually all Microsoft Windows® and hosted on-prem when AD emerged in 1999. AD worked so well that IT organizations didn’t give their identity and access management strategy much of a thought because it was simply this: use Windows-based IT resources and connect users to them via AD.
That approach worked for a long time, but the IT landscape is shifting and morphing away from Windows-based solutions, leaving IT organizations in uncharted territory. Mac® and Linux® systems are replacing Windows. Infrastructure is moving to cloud providers like AWS® or GCP™. G Suite™ and Office 365™ are taking over for on-prem resources like Exchange®, Office®, and Windows Server®. Web applications and non-Windows on-prem applications are also taking over and WiFi is ubiquitous. Even cost-effective Samba file servers and NAS appliances are the data storage solutions of choice. All of these changes are causing massive and fundamental challenges for IT organizations.
Challenges with Traditional Directory Services
Active Directory wasn’t built to manage user access to cloud-based non-Microsoft resources, so IT organizations have had a difficult time creating control, security, and efficiency in their environments.
Diverse IT environments and cloud innovations offer numerous advantages over the on-prem Windows-centric model. That’s why it’s so unfortunate that, with so many different types of IT resources, IT organizations are losing control simply because these solutions often don’t connect back to Active Directory. As a result, identity silos begin to appear all over the organization. This means that onboarding and off-boarding of users doesn’t necessarily happen with the IT organization. Or, even if it does, there are so many different IT resources to touch that mistakes can be made.
Another critical issue in this modern IT environment is security and compliance. At the root of virtually every security program and compliance initiative is keeping user identities secure. Compromised identities are the number one risk and path to a security breach. Without full control and access over all of the identities that users leverage for their IT resources, IT organizations can be at high risk of an incident.
The third area of significant challenge for IT organizations is productivity and efficiency, not only for their own team, but for the end user population as well. Identity silos are a great deal of work for IT organizations to manage, and they increase the risk of shadow IT popping up. Additionally, end users have the ongoing frustration and friction of dealing with too many credentials for too many different IT resources.
Why Should Cloud Directory Services be a Priority?
Control, security, and efficiency are three very strong reasons why IT organizations should put figuring out their cloud directory services approach near the top of their list. By solving foundational issues, IT admins can reap downstream benefits.
A single, authoritative identity provider ensures that IT organizations have deep control over their end user identities as well as what they access. Compliance and security audits can be much easier, and with a single comprehensive approach to identity management, IT organizations go focus on other strategic problems.