Google Cloud Identity vs Azure Active Directory

Written by Rajat Bhargava on May 20, 2017

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Azure AD vs Google IDaaS

As we all know, a tech war between Google and Microsoft has been going on for over a decade now. Whether it is search, cloud, productivity platforms, or even online conferencing, the two tech titans are going head-to-head in a number of areas. Now, you can count cloud identity management as one of those too. The two are facing off with Google Cloud Identity vs Azure Active Directory.

History of Identity Management

evolution of directory services

In order to understand the battle in cloud IAM, we need to step back and understand the history of identity management. The modern era of IAM kicked off with the creation of LDAP. The protocol became the standard from which a number of solutions emerged. OpenLDAP™ and Microsoft Active Directory® led the way, although Microsoft also leveraged the Kerberos authentication protocol as well.

With IT environments being largely Microsoft Windows-based and on-prem, Active Directory quickly became the solution of choice. OpenLDAP was often leveraged for more technical situations such as connecting users to Linux systems or applications built on top of Linux, but there wasn’t much of a fight in the IAM world as Active Directory became the monopoly for core directory services (even as macOS devices began to proliferate). Due to this dominance, a number of providers created solutions that would build on top of Active Directory, like the web application single sign-on providers. These are now often called IDaaS or Identity-as-a-Service.

When Google introduced Google Apps, they too didn’t challenge Active Directory, but rather built on top of it. Their Google Apps Directory (now called G Suite Directory) was little more than a user management system for Google Apps (now called G Suite) and a connection to a few, select web applications. As more organizations adopted G Suite however (now over 5mm), there was the often asked question of “Can I also replace Active Directory?”

Unfortunately, that’s not the way that Google looks at the problem.

Google Cloud Identity does not Replace AD; Neither does Azure

Struggles with Active Directory

The concept of Google Cloud Identity is more about having your Google-based identities for G Suite and Google Cloud hosted with them. They aren’t meant to be used for on-prem systems, AWS cloud servers, Azure, Office 365, a wide range of web or on-prem applications, network access, and more.

At the same time, Microsoft has been pushing hard on their Office 365 platform and Azure Active Directory. Similar to Google Cloud Identity, Azure Active Directory is not an alternative to Active Directory, but rather a user management system for Azure, Office 365, and a web application SSO platform. If you want a core directory service, you won’t find it with either Google Cloud Identity or Azure Active Directory.

That leads to the question: “Is Google Cloud Identity vs Azure Active Directory even the right question to be asking?” We at JumpCloud like to think about it like this: A cloud identity management platform needs to be your central, core, and authoritative source for user identities and authentication. Neither of those platforms accomplish that task, but they are user management systems for their respective platforms.

Cloud Directory Does Replace AD

jumpcoud Directory-as-a-Service

Fortunately, a new generation of cloud identity management solutions called JumpCloud Directory Platform is serving as the next generation of Active Directory in the cloud. As an independent solution, the modern cloud IAM platform becomes an organization’s cloud directory service. The SaaS directory service can connect with G Suite and Office 365 at the same time. As a modern IDaaS solution, JumpCloud can authenticate and manage Windows, Mac, and Linux systems simultaneously. The virtual identity provider is the central source of authentication for cloud and on-prem applications and wired or WiFi networks.

What is the Right Cloud Identity Management Platform for You?

Don’t ask the question, “Google Cloud Identity vs Azure Active Directory?”

Instead, ask, “What is the right cloud identity management platform for my infrastructure?”

Drop us a note, we’d be happy to walk through the cloud IAM space with you and show you how our unified cloud directory could be useful for you. On top of that, feel free to sign-up for a free account and let us know how the cloud directory works for you. Your first 10 users and 10 devices are free.

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is an entrepreneur, investor, author, and CEO and co-founder of JumpCloud. An MIT graduate with over two decades of high-tech experience, Rajat is a ten-time entrepreneur with six exits including two IPOs and four trade sales.

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