Comparing Google Apps Directory and Azure Active Directory

By Greg Keller Posted February 1, 2016


Microsoft is, in order to compete with Google Apps, adding a number of features to Azure Active Directory. While still not a replacement for on-premises AD, Azure AD  is starting to become a competitive threat to Google Apps.

Google Apps has grown significantly over the past few years by focusing on an easy-to-use, affordable cloud platform for productivity. They’ve included email, word processing, spreadsheets,presentations, and other critical applications. Google explicitly shied away from replacing Active Directory; instead, Google focused on competing with Exchange and Office. The strategy has been extremely successful. In fact, over 5 million companies use Google for business.

Microsoft is working to stay relevant by not only creating a comparable suite with Office 365 but also beefing up its Azure Active Directory. By consolidating identities in the cloud, Microsoft aims to offer more value to its customer. In comparison, Google Apps Directory is largely a contact database and a user authentication store for Google applications and select web applications. It doesn’t extend to devices, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), or WiFi networks. Google Apps also doesn’t cover all of a company’s applications. Microsoft’s Azure AD suffers from many of the same issues, including not being able to handle on-premises devices and applications without AD also on-premise. Nor does Azure AD enable IT organizations to connect to AWS or other non-Azure IaaS platforms.

Both organizations are competing to own the cloud-based directory space, but they are doing it by creating walled gardens. There is some leakage out to cloud-based applications; but in general, the goal is to control the user within their own environments. Neither Microsoft Azure AD or Google Apps suffices as the cloud-based directory alternative to on-premise directories, like AD or LDAP.

For organizations that are staying within the Google or Microsoft environments, their respective directories may work well enough. IT admins searching for a central, authoritative cloud-based directory servicea directory service that connects users to devices, applications and networks, regardless of where they are or what platform they use (Microsoft, Linux,  Mac) will have to look outside of the two industry leaders.

Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS), the industry’s new innovative Identity-as-a-Service platform, is tackling the problem of limited options in the marketplace. The DaaS platform is a central user store that leverages a wide variety of protocols to connect multiple platforms, applications of all types, and on-premises networks. The various protocols that DaaS supports include LDAP, SAML, RADIUS, native device APIs, and REST. Which means IT admins have central control over all user access and security permissions.

Are you currently comparing Google Apps Directory and Azure AD in order to find the right solution for your company? It’s time to consider a third solution. Directory-as-a-Service connects users to the IT resources they need, no matter their location or platform, without tremendous IT overhead.

To learn more about each of these different directory platforms, drop us a note. We’d be happy to chat with you about the pros and cons of each solution, so you feel confident in your decision.

Greg Keller

Greg is JumpCloud's Chief Product Officer, overseeing the product management team, product vision and go-to-market execution for the company's Directory-as-a-Service offering. The SaaS-based platform re-imagines Active Directory and LDAP for the cloud era, securely connecting and managing employees, their devices and IT applications.

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