Free Domain Controller

Written by Ryan Squires on April 6, 2019

Share This Article

With the shift to the cloud and Zero Trust Security, the concept of the domain is a hot topic in IT circles these days. A lot of that conversation centers on the question of whether the fundamental idea behind the domain controller will continue in its current incarnation. Speculation aside, the good news is that there is a next generation approach to a free domain controller than can be valuable to IT organizations.

Microsoft and the Domain

The traditional domain controller, Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), has been used to create on-prem domains for about 20 years now. And as you likely already know, AD DS is far from a free product. In fact, it has been a huge revenue driver for Microsoft as part of the Windows Server bundle. When you consider that AD DS was created to manage the plethora of critical IT solutions from Microsoft (think Windows and Office), its sustained success makes sense.

Domain Controller Usage

Historically, IT organizations would leverage the Microsoft Active Directory family of solutions because their IT networks were largely on-prem and Windows-based. Through the domain controller, the end user could simply log in to their Windows desktop or laptop connected to the network and automatically gain access to their Windows-based IT resources. Such resources include the system itself, applications, file servers, and the network. Although nobody called it this, but this setup was essentially the first incarnation of single sign-on (SSO).

Changes in IT

Over time, the Windows-only infrastructure ceded to macOS and Linux systems, web applications, cloud infrastructure from AWS, Samba file servers and NAS appliances for storage, and WiFi networks. This onslaught of non-Windows IT resources put a tremendous amount of pressure on AD and the domain controller’s ability to manage resources in the way that IT admins had grown accustomed. Add to that the next generation security concept Zero Trust, and some IT professionals are wondering whether domain controllers are for them anymore. Many are finding that as the cloud era accelerates, their reliance on the domain controller is waning.

A Modern Approach

While the traditional domain controller was on-prem, the concept of True Single Sign-On™ is the next generation approach to the domain controller concept. The core tenet of True SSO is to enable end users to connect to the IT resources they need to get work done regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location.

With a single set of credentials users can log in to their system (Windows, Mac, Linux), on-prem and web applications (OpenVPN, Salesforce, Slack), virtual and on-prem file servers including Samba and NAS devices, networks through RADIUS, and cloud infrastructure that authenticates with SSH keys. In effect, it is just like the old days of the domain where users had one set of credentials to access all the tools they needed.

The only difference here is that there is no on-prem hardware to maintain and the directory is delivered from the cloud by JumpCloud.

Try JumpCloud Today

While you are unlikely to find a free domain controller from Microsoft, you can try JumpCloud for free today when you sign up for a free 30 Day Trial.

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

Continue Learning with our Newsletter