Google Apps Directory

Written by Rajat Bhargava on November 6, 2016

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Since its emergence in 2006, Google Apps has completely transformed how people write, create, plan, and collaborate. Google Apps is the platform of choice for over 5mm businesses and for millions of end users. It has made a huge dent in Microsoft’s market by replacing their email server Exchange®, Windows Server®, and Office®.

In fact, many IT organizations have found the path to go without Microsoft technology by leveraging Google Apps. This is why IT admins hope and want to believe that Google Apps Directory will be a complete replacement to Active Directory®.

Unfortunately, that’s the not the case.

Understanding Google Apps Directory


Google Apps directory is a user management system for Google Apps itself and also the authentication source for a few select web applications that leverage OAuth or SAML. Google Apps directory isn’t an alternative to AD because it doesn’t authenticate:

  • Systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
  • On-prem applications (and many other cloud apps)
  • The network via WiFi.

Google Apps directory isn’t meant to be a central identity provider.

This is largely because of its heritage including the fact that when Google Apps was introduced to the market it was at a time when Windows was the dominant platform. Virtually all IT networks were hosted on-prem and as a result Active Directory owned the directory services landscape. IT admins were able to provide a quasi Single Sign-On approach with the domain controller. With the introduction of GApps, though, IT didn’t want to have yet another place to manage identities.

The result was that Google created Google Apps Directory Sync (GADS) which was another server that sat in between AD and GApps. It would federate the identities from AD to what is now called G Suite.

So for Google, there wasn’t a reason to build yet another directory. As a result, IT admins looking to get rid of Microsoft Active Directory were out of luck.

In Search of an Authoritative Cloud Directory

In order to manage their systems, apps, and the network, admins were compelled to keep AD around even though they were leveraging GApps in the cloud. Over time, these same IT organizations started to shift to AWS, macOS and Linux devices, web applications, and WiFi networks. The landscape was quickly shifting from being Windows based and on-prem:


…to being mixed platform environments and in the cloud:


Active Directory no longer was a key participant in the ability to manage identities. Google Apps directory did have a user’s credentials, but it was unable to federate those to all of the IT resources within an IT organization.

In response to this, a complementary solution to Google Apps was created called Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS). Tightly integrated with Google Apps, it was a cloud hosted directory service. The goal was for it to be the central identity provider for an organization.

Extend Google Identities to Systems, Apps, and Networks

how Google Wokplace/G Suite integrates with JumpCloud

As a virtual directory service, Directory-as-a-Service serves as the central user management system across systems, applications, and networks. The SaaS directory is cross-platform, provider independent, multi-protocol, and location agnostic. In a sense it is a True Single Sign-On solution for end users.

For IT admins it is the perfect companion tool to Google Apps where GApps replaces Exchange and Directory-as-a-Service is the AD alternative.

Google Apps Directory, Now Complete

If you would like to learn more about Google Apps Directory and how Directory-as-a-Service is an alternative that seamlessly integrates with GApps, drop us a note. Or, sign-up for a free account and give it a try for yourself. Your first 10 users are free forever.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is co-founder and CEO of JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS). JumpCloud securely connects and manages employees, their devices and IT applications. An MIT graduate with two decades of experience in industries including cloud, security, networking and IT, Rajat is an eight-time entrepreneur with five exits including two IPOs, three trade sales and three companies still private.

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