Identity-as-a-Service: SaaS Identity Provider?

Written by Jon Griffin on December 22, 2017

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The term Identity-as-a-Service has been popularized by IDaaS vendors and analysts alike. But, the challenge for IT organizations has always been figuring out what that term actually means. Is Identity-as-a-Service similar to a SaaS identity provider? Or, is IDaaS just equal to web application SSO? Part of the problem is that the definition keeps changing depending on the latest trends and the person you’re asking. So let’s get to the bottom of IDaaS, SaaS, and the IDP.

Understanding the History of IDaaS

SaaS Identity Provider

To understand how the term Identity-as-as-Service was created, and what it means, we need to go back in history a little bit. The creation of the IDaaS world all started with Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan. When this group created the LDAP protocol, they arguably kicked off the modern era of identity management. This is because of what was born from the protocol.

LDAP spawned two critical solutions: Microsoft Active Directory® and OpenLDAP™. These two solutions would become the core of many organization’s IAM strategy. AD would go on to become the monopoly in the space for commercial entities, and OpenLDAP would go on to become the dominant name in open source solutions. These solutions worked for a while, but as is usual in the tech world things started to change and cause complication for the older solutions.

Complications With The Traditional Solutions

Active Directory Server fail

As the world changed and the popularity of web applications rose, on-prem directories like AD started to struggle. To address this challenge that the directory was having, a wave of web application SSO solutions were created to connect users to these web applications via their AD credentials. To help create more buzz around their solutions, these vendors and a group of analysts created the term Identity-as-a-Service. Despite being a misnomer for the category, it was an appealing term and it caught on.

If we move in time closer to today, we now see more and more of the IT infrastructure being moved to the cloud, and heterogeneous environments with Mac and Linux systems emerging everywhere. In addition, many IT organizations have started to struggle with Active Directory and all of the required add-ons like the web application SSO solutions, identity bridges to Mac and Linux systems, and multi-factor authentication platforms. The overwhelming number of bandages that AD needs to function just add complexity and stress to the everyday management.

Can Identity-as-as-Service Mean a SaaS Identity Provider?

Is a SaaS Identity Provider the solution?

As a result of all of this complexity, it has caused many IT organizations to start looking for more. Admins want a True Single Sign-On™ platform that can connect user identities to the IT resources those users need, regardless of the platform, provider, protocol, or location. Essentially, they want a SaaS-based Identity-as-a-Service solution that can act as a cloud identity provider. Fortunately, this type of service exists in the form of JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service®.

As a cloud-based directory service, JumpCloud can connect to systems (Mac, Windows, Linux), cloud and on-prem applications (via SAML, LDAP), physical and virtual file servers (e.g., Samba, NAS devices, box), and wired or wireless networks (through RADIUS). It is a true SaaS identity provider, built for the modern IT environment.

If you would like to learn more about how a SaaS identity provider operates, feel free to reach out to us. We would be happy to answer any questions that you might have. Alternatively, if you would like to see how it works for yourself, sign up for a free account of the cloud-based directory. We offer you 10 users free forever, with no credit card required, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. You can test the platform and make sure that it works for you. Sign up for an account today!

Jon Griffin

Jon Griffin works as a writer for JumpCloud, an organization focused on bringing centralized IT to the modern organization. He graduated with a degree in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and is an avid learner of new technology from cloud-based innovations to VR and more.

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