By Natalie Bluhm Posted April 1, 2018
With the introduction of Microsoft® Azure®, many IT organizations are wondering if they should be shifting to the cloud versions of Microsoft technology. Obviously, Office 365™ has become the replacement for Office. Is Microsoft introducing a cloud alternative to Active Directory® (AD) with Azure? Is Azure AD better than AD?
To answer these questions, we really need to understand Microsoft’s strategy in the directory services space.
Microsoft’s Plan of Action
Microsoft has owned the identity provider for virtually all organizations since the advent of AD in 1999. This, of course, has supported their drive to lock-in customers into Microsoft platforms. For a while, IT admins were relatively okay with this because Microsoft also had a monolithic presence in productivity applications, email, systems, and file servers. AD worked beautifully with these on-prem Microsoft resources.
However, as you probably know, this well-engineered ecosystem started to break down with the rise of Mac® and Linux® systems, web-based applications, cloud servers, and new options for file storage. First, these new IT resources are not Microsoft-based, and second, many of them are cloud-based. Active Directory simply wasn’t built to connect with these kinds of resources, so secure identity management became cumbersome and costly.
Then, Microsoft introduced Azure AD. IT organizations eagerly wondered, “Will Azure AD replace AD?” “Will we finally have a cloud version of Active Directory?” The answer turned out to be no.
The Truth About Azure AD
Azure AD is a complement to Active Directory, not an alternative. The core of Microsoft’s identity management strategy is still Active Directory on-prem. What Azure AD really is, is a user management system for Azure-related services, and a single sign-on solution to web applications. While it has the ability to manage user logins for Windows 10 devices, it largely is not meant to control on-prem resources and it still doesn’t integrate with Mac and Linux systems. Much like AD, Azure struggles with non-Windows resources too.
With this known, it is clear that Azure AD is not better than AD. So, as IT organizations continue to look for a replacement to Active Directory, they end up being left with two options. They can leverage a cloud identity bridge to federate AD identities to the cloud and non-Windows resources, or they can eliminate AD all together and shift to a cloud identity management platform. Fortunately, there’s a solution that can handle both cases. This solution is called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, and the cloud-based directory can help IT admins achieve their goal of implementing a comprehensive cloud identity provider.
Extend or Move to the Cloud with JumpCloud
If you’re not quite ready to completely eliminate your on-prem Active Directory infrastructure, JumpCloud’s AD Integration is a great solution for you. This identity bridge feature integrates with AD, and then extends your AD identities to non-bound AD resources like Mac systems and cloud Linux servers in AWS®.
When you’re ready to completely move your identity provider to the cloud, JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is a full-fledged cloud alternative to Active Directory. However, JumpCloud is more than just an alternative to AD. This modern directory service takes an independent approach that makes it possible for IT admins to centralize access to any IT resource regardless of protocol, provider, platform, or place. IT admins are able to secure user access to the following IT resources:
- Windows®, Mac, and Linux systems
- Local and cloud servers
- On-prem and web-based apps
- Physical and virtual file storage
- Wired and wireless networks
So whether you’re looking to simply extend AD or replace it altogether, JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service can help you with both IAM strategies.
Discover More about an AD Replacement
Still find yourself asking, “Is Azure AD better than AD?” Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’ll gladly answer any questions you might have about why you should consider leveraging our identity bridge or our cloud-based directory service instead. If you’re ready to start testing our Active Directory replacement, sign up for a free account. You don’t need a credit card, you’ll be able to test the whole platform, and your first ten users are free forever.