Cloud LDAP Competition

Written by George Lattimore on June 6, 2018

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Do you leverage
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) authentication services within your IT infrastructure? How much upkeep is needed to actively manage applications for cloud and mobile? With recent studies showing cloud-based services on the rise and companies expected to allocate 21% of their IT budget to hosted and cloud-based services in 2018, now’s the time to really consider cloud LDAP competition.

For the past two decades, many IT organizations have employed an on-prem OpenLDAP® implementation to authenticate access as well as organize and retrieve important information via LDAP. However, the increasingly wide range of platforms, systems, applications, and networks entering the market is changing how IT administrators view authentication services. With this in mind, a new wave of cloud LDAP competition is giving OpenLDAP users a viable on-prem LDAP alternative. Follow the post below to understand how a cloud LDAP solution can revamp your user management process and free up valuable resources.

Following the Roots of LDAP

Following the roots of LDAP

As you may already know, LDAP was developed more than 25 years ago by Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan. The focal point for creating LDAP was directly aimed at replacing Directory Access Protocol (DAP) by establishing a new method with a lighter weight protocol for organizing directory information, authenticating access, and reducing overhead access to the X.500 Directory®.

But, what exactly is the X.500 Directory? Think of it as the core of a long-running standard for computer networking and directory services. By using a hierarchical Directory Information Tree (DIT) to store data from across servers, information could then be categorically searched for, retrieved, and accessed.

For Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, implementing the X.500 Directory on desktop computers proved far too protocol-heavy to be practical, and in turn, a landmark opportunity for innovation was presented. According to Tim Howes, the result was “something a little lighter weight to accommodate the Macs and PCs that were on everybody’s desktop.” The result was a flexible, open source authentication standard for directory services.

LDAP had arrived on the scene and successfully flipped the script on DAP as the fundamental protocol of choice. Meanwhile, systems and application vendors were embedding LDAP into the client side of the equation, creating a virtuous cycle of adoption for the protocol. Eventually, mainstay LDAP-based identity management solutions, such as Microsoft Active Directory® (AD) and OpenLDAP, would implement LDAP as well. Over time through Microsoft’s dominance, the competition for LDAP would dissipate as AD became the runaway commercial identity provider, and OpenLDAP became the open source market share leader. Together, these solutions were fairly effective for controlled, on-prem environments, but the climate around them was changing.

Shifting Towards the Cloud

group policy objects

As we all know, new sets of challenges and demands for changing technology are always emerging, and the IT infrastructure space can’t remain isolated in a bubble for long. With good reason, the climate around IT was shifting towards some exciting, new frontiers: primarily the cloud and heterogeneous environments (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux). As applications and infrastructure were redirected to the cloud, the need to leverage on-prem LDAP servers changed direction as well. Complemented by the influx of Mac and Linux systems, IT admins were busy looking for novel methods of handling user management functions with LDAP.

When the bubble eventually popped and traditional, on-prem identity management platforms gave way, a new generation of cloud-based LDAP competition emerged. These modern, SaaS-based LDAP platforms provide a viable alternative that enable IT admins to leverage LDAP without anything on-prem. With a virtual LDAP service, you can now synthesize the source of truth for authenticating user access to your cloud and on-prem IT resources requiring LDAP. All you have to do is direct the application to the cloud LDAP servers, and you’re in business.

Furthermore, IT organizations only have to pay for what they use. So, you could avoid the extra infrastructure and management costs, effectively saving time and money while streamlining your user management process. This hosted, SaaS-based LDAP approach alleviates costs as well as unnecessary effort for cloud-forward organizations, and those interested in microservices.

Harnessing Cloud LDAP-as-a-Service

With JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service, you can forget about the upkeep needed for protocols native to macOS, Linux, and Windows—we’ve got all that covered. You can also leverage our cloud RADIUS service, SAML-based single sign-on, SSH key auth, MFA, and more. With JumpCloud, you also get deep system management capabilities with GPO-like policies. With no other systems to setup and manage, you’re free to focus on your priorities.

Want to know more about the cloud LDAP competition? Contact JumpCloud directly. Or, go ahead and try cloud LDAP-as-a-Service for yourself. Registration is free and so are your first 10 users, forever.

George Lattimore

George is a writer at JumpCloud, a central source for authenticating, authorizing, and managing your IT infrastructure through the cloud. With a degree in Marketing and an MS in Public Communications and Technology, George enjoys writing about how the IT landscape is adapting to a diversified field of technology.

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