Domain Controller as a Service

Written by Jon Griffin on May 19, 2021

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The IT world is moving to cloud hosted (as a service) solutions – especially with the global pandemic. The shift to the cloud has accelerated faster than anybody would have ever imagined. Even categories and solutions that IT organizations have used on-prem for decades are shifting to be delivered as services. Take the domain controller as a service category. A few years ago nobody would have believed that the primary authentication and authorization platform for an organization would shift to the cloud. But it has, and it is being delivered by a non-Microsoft solution known as a Cloud Directory Platform. Even Microsoft has looked at creating a DC in the cloud with their Azure AD Domain Services (note the domain is within Azure).

So why should you consider a Domain Controller as a Service (DCaaS)? Well, let’s take a look at how the IT landscape has progressed over the last decade. 

The Beginning of Domain Controller as a Service

server account management

About 20 years ago, the domain controller rose to the forefront of IT operations as part of the Microsoft Active Directory® setup. The AD Domain Services component controlled a user’s authorization and authentication to systems, applications, networks, and servers – as long as they were Windows-based or compatible with Microsoft’s proprietary implementation of Kerberos. This provided users with a single sign-on experience as long as these resources were on-prem and Microsoft-based. 

But during the mid 2000’s, the IT landscape experienced radical change. Microsoft was no longer the primary operating system and application platform for organizations. The move to Mac and Linux devices had reached critical mass. G Suite (then known as Google Apps and now known as Google Workspace) and a wide range of web applications (Salesforce, Dropbox, and thousands more) changed how employees worked. Meanwhile AWS charged out to a dominating lead in the server infrastructure space, with Linux becoming the OS of choice. In the 2010s mobile would become more critical with iOS and Android handhelds becoming ubiquitous all the while the corporate environment was further shifting to the cloud, web apps, and non-Windows platforms.

With all of these changes and now a global pandemic, IT admins have started shifting more of their IT infrastructure and management tools to the cloud. The once-robust on-prem network has, in many cases, been reduced to WiFi access points and some NAS file servers – and in some cases, organizations are now doing away with the office completely, requiring a fully cloud / remote setup. As a result, IT admins are starting to shift the domain controller to the cloud as well as their whole identity management system. In a sense, the idea of a cloud-based domain controller is really providing a centralized cloud-based resource for authentication and authorization to whatever a user needs, regardless of where it may live or who provides it. Even more, IT organizations want their entire identity management delivered as a service with high security (think Zero Trust) rather than as a solution they need to manage and maintain.

What does a Domain Controller as a Service Offer?

Cloud Services

The concept of a domain controller as a service is incredibly appealing to IT organizations. Regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location, IT organizations can securely manage and connect user identities to systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), cloud and on-prem servers (AWS, GCP, Azure, on-prem), on-prem and cloud storage (e.g. Samba file servers, NAS appliances, Dropbox, Box, etc.), web and on-prem applications via LDAP and SAML, and wired and WiFi networks through RADIUS. Ideally, this domain controller microservice would ensure that Zero Trust principles were leveraged ensuring that the identity, device, and network were verified along with ensuring the proper access rights to IT resources.

Never Buy a Domain Controller Again

JumpCloud directory-as-a-service

For more information on what it’s like to use a domain controller as a service, consider reading about Upland Software and their decision to use our cloud-based IAM solution instead of Active Directory to manage multiple heterogeneous environments around the world.

If you have any questions about a domain controller as a service, feel free to drop us a note. Interested in trying it out? Sign up for a JumpCloud Free account. All of our features are available – including our premium capabilities – and your first ten users and ten systems are free along with ten days of 24×7 premium in-app chat support. 

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