Can You Join Macs to an Azure AD Domain?

Written by Cassa Niedringhaus on March 10, 2021

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Updated on September 2, 2021

With Microsoft trying to shift organizations to Azure cloud infrastructure platform, many IT admins want to figure out whether Azure Active Directory (AAD or Azure AD) or another cloud directory service is right for them. Specifically, for IT organizations that use cross-platform infrastructure, they want to know if they can join Macs to an Azure AD domain. Let’s dive into how Macs work in AAD, and find an answer to the question.

Macs in an AAD Domain

The short answer to, “Can you join Macs to an Azure AD domain?” is: No, not easily. Azure AD wasn’t set up to be a core directory service, as seen in the link to a Spiceworks post by a Microsoft representative. Of course, Microsoft hasn’t been motivated to make it easier for IT organizations to use non-Windows platforms, such as Mac or Linux devices, AWS, or Google Cloud, for that matter. 

That said, there are ways that IT organizations can cobble together an identity management approach to join Macs to an Azure AD domain. But, the best option might be a next-generation cloud directory platform that integrates tightly with Azure AD and Macs and eliminates the need for AD on-prem (which, as you can see from the post above, is required according to Microsoft’s reference architecture).

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A Cobbled Approach

IT admins will need to start with not only Azure AD but also Azure AD Domain Services, which creates a domain within Azure. Then, IT admins will need to set up a VPN connection between their Macs and the Azure AD domain. Unfortunately, though, this VPN approach is not condoned by Microsoft. In fact, they actively discourage IT admins from connecting non-Windows, on-prem devices to an Azure AD domain. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that the Mac is set up properly to authenticate through the AAD domain, which is yet another issue that needs to be solved.

Stuck Between One AD and Another

Similar to Microsoft’s on-prem directory service, Active Directory, IT admins trying to join Macs to AAD are stuck with a complex task. Essentially, they’ll need to figure out how to have the AAD credentials match those within AD, and then subsequently use a directory extension tool to connect the Mac to the on-prem Active Directory. That’s a lot of work to sort of get AAD to work with Macs, and they don’t even authenticate with Azure AD. To better understand how Microsoft thinks about AD and AAD working together, see the diagram below:

The disparity between Azure Active Directory and macOS systems has given IT admins a reason to step back and look at the bigger picture of identity management. An ideal solution would take one set of credentials and propagate them across a user’s entire lineup of IT resources, including systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), cloud infrastructure (AWS®, GCE™, or Azure), web or on-prem applications, WiFI and VPN networks, physical or virtual file servers, and more. This centralized cloud directory could alleviate the burden of authentication of non-Windows resources to Azure AD – or, even Active Directory for that matter.

Mac Authentication in a Cloud Domain

Thankfully, over a hundred thousand IT organizations have taken a holistic look at identity management and sought a different path when it comes to macOS systems altogether. Rather than connect them to Active Directory or Azure Active Directory, IT admins have managed user and system access through a next generation cloud directory service called JumpCloud Directory Platform. And, as a bonus, JumpCloud offers Mac MDM services eliminating the need to purchase yet another solution.

JumpCloud has reimagined the legacy, on-prem Active Directory tool for the cloud era. As such, a cloud directory platform centralizes user identities behind a single credential per user. This unified single sign-on experience connects users to virtually all of their IT resources, making work easier for users and admins alike, and ultimately securing IT organizations worldwide. So, can you join Macs to an Azure AD domain? Technically yes, but it isn’t a straightforward process.

But with JumpCloud, you can join Mac systems and more to almost any resource an end user may need to access. If JumpCloud seems like the right solution for you, you can give it a try today, absolutely free. By signing up for JumpCloud, you get full access to the platform, including our premium functionality, with 10 users and 10 devices free. Afterwards, you can scale JumpCloud with your organization. If you have any questions, please contact us or use our in-app chat during the first 10 days 24×7 to help get you started.

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