Directory-as-a-Service Vision: Replace Active Directory®

By Rajat Bhargava Posted October 28, 2016

Replace AD

It’s been about five years since we announced our intention to build a cloud-hosted directory service called Directory-as-a-Service®. A lot has changed in five years, and in some ways, not much has changed. 

We couldn’t be more excited about the future of JumpCloud and our Identity-as-a-Service platform. As a modern cloud directory service, we are changing the way that IT organizations manage their infrastructure, shift to the cloud, and break the chains of vendor lock-in.

Our Achievements So Far…  

In five years, we’ve heard from hundreds of thousands of IT organizations that a cloud directory makes a lot of sense. You’ve told us that there are three general use cases where JumpCloud can be helpful:

  • No Directory in Place – For many born in the cloud organizations or those that just manually managed user access and systems, the change to easily and quickly implement control and management over access to IT resources has been a welcome change.
  • Extending Active Directory to Modern IT Resources – The cloud is a game changer for just about every organization, but embracing it into your existing infrastructure can be challenging. How do you extend user access, increase security, and automate management all at the same time?
  • Replacing Active Directory – For many organizations, the end state is easy to see. In IT, rarely do decades-old solutions stay in use when more modern, innovative solutions are available. For these organizations, the process of replacing AD is critical to fully realizing the benefits of the cloud. Now more than ever, the AD-less vision can be a reality.

We’ve grown the worldwide Directory-as-a-Service footprint very quickly. It’s humbling to know that many great organizations across the world, now over 75,000, trust our service to help them achieve their goals. In fact, only half of JumpCloud’s business is in the United States. Grab is an excellent example of our ability to not only help companies outside of the US, but enable them to scale rapidly and efficiently without AD. 

Supporting and servicing our worldwide customer base has been a critical ingredient to transforming how organizations find value in modern IT resources. We have an amazing team that works incredibly hard to deliver a great solution to wonderful clients. 

On the partner side, the MSP ecosystem has embraced a virtual identity provider as a game changer for their business. As the only cloud IAM platform with a fully multi-tenant portal for MSPs, JumpCloud is a catalyst for MSPs to grow and support their clients even better. 

Finally, we’ve been fortunate to work with great investors and advisors.

How We’re Evolving… 

Many of our early customers didn’t have a directory service. They were largely using Google Apps™ (now called G Suite™) or Microsoft® Office 365™as their primary source of authentication for most web-based resources. They quickly hit a security wall in this regard. MacOS® and Linux® devices were all over their network in addition to Windows® systems, and all of these workstations typically had unmanaged local admin accounts, bound to no central directory. AWS® was generally their choice for cloud servers and in most cases, network access was completely shared, leveraging a common SSID and password the employees would use in order to get internet access. 

For these organizations, it was a natural progression to choose Directory-as-a-Service. An on-prem directory service didn’t make a lot of sense and nor did one that didn’t support all of their various platforms.

Over the last few years, we have been surprised at how many organizations that already have Microsoft Active Directory are reaching out. We always knew that ultimately we would be helping organizations replace Active Directory. What caught us by surprise was how many contacted us and desire to leverage modern IT resources without being locked in to a single vendor or legacy approach. I guess in retrospect it makes sense. The IT landscape is shifting more rapidly than ever:

  • More organizations are leveraging cloud platforms – and those organizations are larger than ever too.
  • Only one in five devices now runs Windows [Forbes]. That’s a dramatic change from a decade ago.
  • Web applications are the new standard. Microsoft is shifting everybody to Office 365. G Suite is a major contender as well.
  • Identity security is more critical than ever. Companies are being hacked daily and the #1 vector of attack is user credentials.
  • SaaS delivery models are more advantageous to IT organizations. They leave the heavy lifting to the provider and only pay for what they use, so it’s no surprise that cloud services remain a budget priority for 45% of organizations

These are fundamental trends. They aren’t going away any time soon and the good news is that Directory-as-a-Service is aligned with each one of these. It’s why we see so many IT admins signing up for a free account to check it out. IT organizations don’t want to expend time and resources on something that they can just have delivered to them packaged as a solution. 

Then there’s the fact that the IT landscape has moved beyond Active Directory. With heterogeneous and cloud environments, it is a significant challenge for IT organizations to fully manage and support their entire user population and IT landscape. It’s not that Microsoft isn’t trying to change with the times, but with a twenty-year-old foundation it is difficult.

Active Directory has evolved only incrementally with the last major foundational change likely being AD FS, which helped extend on-prem AD to web applications with yet another on-prem implementation.

Of course, Microsoft’s focus has been on Azure® Active Directory (Azure AD or AAD). The reality of an on-prem, Windows’s focused AD has led many to consider Azure® AD for their identity provider needs. But the truth is, using Azure AD alone for management on-prem Windows networks, non-Windows users and systems, networks via RADIUS, NAS storage devices, AWS cloud servers, and more is difficult without AD on-prem and a significant number of add-ons to supplement it. In effect, Azure AD is an extension of the lock-in Microsoft so expertly deployed with the original AD. 

The Future is Cloud-Forward and Vendor-Neutral

While we love to see so many people using our platform, it might be the fact that these organizations are finally free from the lock-in that they’ve experienced in the past that is most gratifying. 

We have always treated Mac, Linux, G Suite, AWS, and more as first-class citizens. Our platform doesn’t discriminate based on your choice of operating system or vendor as others have done and continue to do. 

The benefit for organizations is that they can pick the right IT solutions for their team without having to worry about integration issues. Cloud, SaaS, and mobile have been all about the democratization of IT, and we believe that the directory service is the cornerstone of that movement.

The Directory for the Modern Business

It would be easy for us to just build the same things as Active Directory, but that’s not our strategy. We have put forth the effort to deeply understand our customers so that we can see what their core problems are and what solutions would help them. 

Don’t think of JumpCloud as a mere alternative to Active Directory. We’re re-imagining Active Directory for the modern era. This is no small feat. To our core we understand that directory services are mission critical and they require top-of-the-line security, high availability, and the independence to work with any IT resource.

We hope that you’ll join us on this journey to a cloud directory. The world we envision is one that is open, independent, and secure. Drop us a note or set up a one-on-one demo if you think we can help you think about the future of your IT infrastructure. Or, just try our platform for free and let us know what you think or even read what others think.

Be sure to check out our Build Your Own Directory video series to learn more about how to use Directory-as-a-Service with videos from inside the product. 

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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