Active Directory® Tools For Macs®

By Zach DeMeyer Posted March 3, 2019

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.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a writer and researcher for JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, making music, and soccer.

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