Directory-as-a-Service: SaaS Directory Services

Written by Natalie Bluhm on December 14, 2017

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The modern approach to SaaS directory services is called Directory-as-a-Service®. As the IT landscape shifts to the cloud, it is critical for IT admins to bring their IT management infrastructure to the cloud as well. This shift has happened in most categories, but identity management has been late in joining the move to the cloud. Now, Directory-as-a-Service is ‘SaaSifying’ the core identity provider. 

As we lay out the core identity provider’s development over time, the significance of a cloud identity management solution becomes clear.

A Tale of Two Directories

identity management

Stepping back through history, the directory services landscape has been largely owned by two solutions – Microsoft Active Directory® and the open source, OpenLDAP™. This approach worked incredibly well when the IT infrastructure was either Windows-based or supported the LDAP protocol. IT was able to have optimal visibility over users, systems, applications, and files and granular control over the infrastructure in their environment.

Over the last decade, though, the IT landscape has changed dramatically. Today, an organization’s users don’t always work in the same place, and according to Gallup, 43% of Americans work remotely. Mac and Linux endpoints are populating the workplace at an increasing rate, and web-based applications are used more than ever. Additionally, infrastructure has moved to the cloud thanks to the likes of AWS and Google Cloud Platform.  

Networks have become wireless, and the increase in cyber and malware attacks have IT admins hyper concerned about identity security. The modern office is completely different from the IT infrastructure that AD has been managing for almost two decades. Now, this mixed platform environment is putting pressure and stress on both the identity provider and AD – not to mention the IT team that runs it.

SSO: The “Bandaid” Solution

Since the revolution of the IT landscape, some solutions have emerged. Single sign-on (SSO) solutions were created to solve Active Directory’s trouble connecting with web apps. These web-app SSO platforms would sit on top of Active Directory and allow IT to securely connect AD user identities to web-based applications. Then this other piece of technology called a directory extension surfaced. Directory extensions would also sit on top of Active Directory and connect AD user identities to resources like Mac systems. However, both of these solutions have only prolonged the life of an identity provider that is past its time.

Active Directory was great in an on-prem, all Microsoft world, but this massive shift in the way IT is being done has called for a new approach to identity and access management (IAM). Today, identity management needs to account for the plethora of platforms and providers frequently  used in the modern office. SaaS directory services have arrived to address just this.

SaaS Directory Services – A Solution for Modern IT


Modern day IT admins are focused on connecting their end users with all of the IT resources that those users need from systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux), cloud and on-prem servers (e.g. AWS, GCP, Azure, and on-prem data centers), web and on-prem applications via LDAP and SAML, physical and virtual file servers such as Samba file servers and NAS appliances, and wired and WiFi networks via RADIUS. Our virtual identity provider centrally connects users to all of these resources and provides IT with a secure, efficient environment.

Directory-as-a-Service is filling this hole for IT organizations. As a SaaS-based directory services solution, IT admins can replace Active Directory with a cloud-based solution. JumpCloud manages the directory services infrastructure including hardware, software, availability, security, and more, leaving IT admins with more time to focus on core tasks.

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Get Started and Learn more about JumpCloud

Learn more about SaaS directory services by reading how Ooyala centralized their global workforce by implementing Directory-as-a-Service. If you have any questions about switching to a cloud-based IAM solution, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Also consider signing up for a free account. You’ll have full access to our platform, and your first ten users are free forever.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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