Active Directory® Tools for Macs®

Written by Zach DeMeyer on March 3, 2019

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As more Macs® are used within organizations, many IT admins are struggling with how to manage them. Generally, organizations have been using Microsoft® Active Directory® as their identity provider. But, limitations within AD have forced admins to ask whether there are Active Directory tools for Macs.

The short answer is yes, there are a variety of tools that can be used to bridge Mac authentication into Active Directory (AD). Traditionally, these solutions, called identity bridges or directory extension tools, were heavy duty, on-prem solutions that often required professional services to get up and running.

A new generation of tools can manage Mac systems in a way similar to how AD uses group policy objects (GPOs) for Windows® machines. We will talk about those later.

Why AD Tools for Macs?

The concept of Active Directory tools for Macs makes a great deal of sense because of the challenges that AD has with managing non-Windows user accounts and systems. Generally, AD can handle simple authentication functions across platforms like Macs. But, provisioning and deprovisioning accounts on non-Windows systems, running GPO-like policies, and securing Macs/Linux® systems can be challenging for Microsoft technologies, including Active Directory or even Azure® Active Directory.

For many IT organizations, the ability to extend identity and access management (IAM) to Mac, Linux, AWS®, G Suite™, Samba file servers / NAS appliances, and many other non-Windows platforms is critical. Their end users are using a wide range of IT resources, many of which are not Windows- or Azure-based. This freedom of choice is taking its toll on the IAM stances of many IT organizations.

The result is that IT organizations end up cementing their identity management infrastructure on-prem with their Active Directory instance, and several add-on tools, like an identity bridge, to connect to resources outside of AD. From a long-term perspective, this approach is not beneficial for growth, as studies show that cloud-forward companies grow almost 20% faster than their on-prem counterparts (SkyHigh).

Cloud IAM Tools for Macs

The good news is that a new generation of cloud-based Active Directory tools for Mac and other non-Windows platforms is taking over the IAM space. In fact, this approach can even replace Active Directory with a neutral cloud-based directory services infrastructure.

Now, this cloud-forward approach to an identity bridge is enabling IT admins to quickly and easily extend Active Directory to Mac and Linux systems. There is no on-prem infrastructure to manage and federating AD identities can be done easily in just a few minutes. A simple, lightweight agent on the Mac or Linux machine gives IT admins full control over user accounts as well as the system itself. This includes the ability to run cross-platform, GPO-like policies, execute ad hoc commands, or schedule tasks.

All of these capabilities and more are available from the Directory-as-a-Service® platform from JumpCloud®. You can use Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) as an Active Directory tool for Macs, as well as a standalone cloud directory service. Learn more about DaaS by contacting us with your questions, or by checking out our blog or YouTube channel.

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