By Zach DeMeyer Posted August 24, 2019
Is there a free LDAP server? As one of the most popular identity management authentication protocols, LDAP servers have been in high demand, but the costs of some options make it less appealing than other methods of authentication.
Free LDAP Server
There are two sides to an LDAP server: the LDAP software that acts as the directory service and carries out the protocol’s authentications and the server that hosts said software. Unfortunately, while there are free LDAP server solutions available, the physical server hardware required to stand up an LDAP instance is generally not free.
On average, a new server can cost an IT organization anywhere from $4K to $20K, depending on the model and capabilities. Used/refurbished servers are considerably less expensive, but bear a history of wear and tear that might reduce performance in the long run and necessitate the need for upgrades. Of course, with the advent of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) through AWS, Azure, GCP, and others, IT organizations can have their LDAP software hosted in the cloud. Per-minute compute charges for these services, however, are most certainly not free.
Ultimately, despite the fact that there seemingly aren’t any completely free LDAP server options, IT admins can leverage LDAP software for free. Let’s check out some of the free LDAP software solutions that admins can employ.
One of the most popular free LDAP software options is OpenLDAP. The open-source solution is widely known by the IT industry. As an offering, OpenLDAP was one of the first LDAP-based software available, along with Microsoft® Active Directory®, the legacy commercial directory service.
A main drawback of OpenLDAP is its implementation and configuration. There is a high technical bar for entry with OpenLDAP, which, for some, makes the software seem almost more trouble than it’s worth. IT admins using OpenLDAP are required to stand up the software manually, with additional tuning after the fact to ensure that everything continues to run properly (and especially securely) as needed for the organization.
389 Directory Server
Another open-source LDAP software option is 389 Directory Server. 389 was developed by open-source champions, Red Hat. Ironically, Red Hat also used to support OpenLDAP, but has since removed the software from their radar. Some may be led to believe that this move away from OpenLDAP was driven by Red Hat’s intent to provide greater support for 389 (their own solution) by diverting the resources from OpenLDAP.
Regardless of whether this was the reason or not, admins can utilize Red Hat support for implementation of 389. Unfortunately, in order to receive 389 support from Red Hat, organizations need to pay a subscription for support services. What’s more, depending on how it’s implemented, 389 will not operate as a standalone LDAP instance, requiring additional paid services from Red Hat to properly function.
Apache Directory™ Server
An open-source LDAP software that is unrelated to OpenLDAP is Apache Directory Server. The LDAP implementation is bolstered by the addition of the Kerberos protocol, which puts it more in the league of Active Directory than other LDAP implementations.
From solely an LDAP perspective, Apache is fairly comparable to the solutions above. That also means that Apache is ultimately difficult to implement like its other open-source counterparts.
The Caveat of “Free” LDAP Software
Ultimately, despite the fact that these open-source software are, for all intent and purposes, “free,” there is a major caveat. They all require hosting on a server, which can often be pricey. A server could be stood up via a cloud infrastructure (AWS®, Azure®, GCP™, etc.) service, which also ends up being expensive in the long-run, but that doesn’t forego the fact that there is several hours, even days worth of work required to set them up and keep them running smoothly.
Ideally, an IT organization would find a “best of both worlds” scenario, one where they can leverage a cloud hosted LDAP server, avoiding steep hardware prices and offload the heavy lifting of LDAP software implementation. This cloud LDAP instance would most likely be offered following the “as-a-Service” delivery model.
Thankfully, LDAP-as-a-Service does exist, available as a part of JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. JumpCloud is the world’s first cloud directory service, equipping IT admins with the ability to manage all of their users and their access to virtually any IT resources that they employ daily (systems, applications, networks, file servers, infrastructure, etc.). JumpCloud is a reimagination of Active Directory and LDAP, enabling managed end users to leverage a single secure set of credentials to access all of these resources.
JumpCloud’s LDAP-as-a-Service utilizes a global network of pre-configured OpenLDAP servers, completely alleviating the burden of implementing LDAP. What once took hours of work can now take a few simple clicks in JumpCloud’s browser-based admin console. IT admins simply point their users towards LDAP-as-a-Service, and JumpCloud practically does the rest. The best part is that LDAP-as-a-Service with JumpCloud is truly free for up to 10 users.
Try JumpCloud for Free
IT admins seeking a free LDAP server can use JumpCloud’s LDAP-as-a-Service for free for up to ten users by simply signing up for Directory-as-a-Service. Your JumpCloud account not only gives you access to LDAP-as-a-Service, but to all of Directory-as-a-Service as well. Once you expand past your free ten users, you can explore our reasonable pricing options, all while freeing yourself from the hours of work you would normally need with a self-hosted LDAP option.