Definition of Domain Controller

Written by Zach DeMeyer on August 19, 2018

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Like a feudal lord, the IT admin is the ruler of their domain. Unlike medieval times, however, the IT admin’s domain is not one of fiefs and farmers, but filled with users, systems, networks, databases, and more. These facets of the domain are all governed by “laws,” if you will, set forth by the sysadmin to dictate the authorization of access of said facets. The domain controller is a key tool that allows an IT admin to do so. Let’s explore the definition of domain controller.

What is a Domain Controller?

nas server

To keep with the medieval analogy, the domain controller is like the portcullis that allows access to the IT kingdom. In real terms, the domain controller is a server that manages user authentication and access to the domain’s resources to ensure network security. The term itself was especially prevalent during the early days of IT, when the workplace was Windows®-centric. Domain controllers were a key concept of Windows Server and Microsoft® Active Directory® (MAD or AD), the legacy on-prem directory service. By leveraging the domain controller, admins could create Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to dictate access to groups of users, among other functionalities. Given the dominance of AD in the modern workplace, domain controller became a commonly used term.

In the cloud era, however, the IT landscape is evolving. Much like the castles and moats of yore, domain controllers are becoming obsolete. Many organizations are searching for more effective, cloud-based directory services, and AD—while still widely used—is losing its hold on the market. The domain controller as a tool is still a useful one, but given the fact that it’s a primarily Microsoft-based term, it’s fading just as AD is.

Many believe that Microsoft Azure® Active Directory will be the cloud replacement for the domain controller. According to Microsoft, however, it is not. In reality, Azure AD creates domains inside of Azure itself, and, given the prevalence of non-Windows web-based IT resources, this functionality is rather limited. So, in this now OS agnostic and multi-location realm of IT infrastructure, what is the domain controller of the future?

JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®: A Modern Definition of Domain Controller

Identity Management as a Service

JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® is the first outright cloud directory service, and is a reimagination of Active Directory for the modern era. By leveraging Directory-as-a-Service, IT admins can once again take control over their domain, regardless of platform, protocol, or location. The JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) agent-based solution ties users and their systems into one unified identity that can also authorize access to web-based applications and other cloud SaaS solutions. The cloud directory also integrates cloud RADIUS and LDAP-as-a-Service capabilities to help control access to WiFi and legacy applications. Directory-as-a-Service also features Policies, a cross platform GPO-like capability akin to the abilities of the original AD domain controller.

To learn more about JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service and its take on the definition of domain controller, check out our knowledge base posts on Policies or our YouTube channel. You can also contact us to speak to a support expert directly. If JumpCloud seems like the definition of domain controller that your organization needs, consider signing up for Directory-as-a-Service today. It’s completely free, and includes ten users on the house.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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