Managed Active Directory® (AD)

Written by Natalie Bluhm on January 2, 2018

Share This Article

With the advent of SaaS and managed services, a number of IT management tool categories are making the leap to be delivered as outsourced services. Data centers, applications, and file storage are some of the services that have taken advantage of the SaaS model. One of the last categories to make the transition to the cloud has been identity management / directory services. With all of the benefits of moving to the cloud, including lower upfront costs and maintenance, IT admins are wondering whether a managed Active Directory® solution is available to them.

But is a managed Active Directory solution really what IT is looking for? To answer that question we need to take a look at Active Directory’s start and how AD works.

Active Directory’s Launch in IAM Market

Microsoft Active Directory

The identity management space has been long dominated by Active Directory (AD). Introduced in 1999, Microsoft leveraged their dominance with Windows devices and applications to achieve dominance in enterprise-grade user and system management. Windows systems had already started appearing on every employee’s desk and those systems, along with their access to applications and networks, needed to be managed. When Active Directory was released, for a period of time IT admins had the user and system management they wanted.

Not only have IT resources dramatically changed in the last two decades, but how IT wants to manage those resources has also evolved. Today, the Microsoft ecosystem is just one drop in an ocean of well developed system platforms, web-based applications, cloud resources, and file storage. Additionally, IT doesn’t want to have to deal with the costs and time it takes to manage Active Directory hardware. So is a managed Active Directory even feasible?

Breaking Down the Idea of a Managed Active Directory

Well in the past, the way Active Directory worked was an organization would have AD located on-prem, and an internal IT team was responsible for managing the identity provider. AD worked on a direct connect model, so any IT resources needed to be close to the AD server. This meant that hosting AD at a third party location would end up requiring VPNs and increased networking and security work which ultimately meant that a cloud hosted AD wasn’t a viable option.

Some cloud organizations such as AWS have introduced a managed Active Directory solution for their own IaaS platform. Azure, too, has its version of AD, called Azure Active Directory. But it isn’t a cloud version of the on-prem Active Directory solution, like you may think. In the case of both AWS and Azure, the end result is that their managed Active Directory approach is really for use within their cloud infrastructure. As a result, an Active Directory as a Service solution which is a replacement to the on-prem Active Directory doesn’t really exist.

IT organizations need to look outside of the Microsoft confines to find a true cloud directory solution.

Consider a Managed Active Directory Alternative


Called Directory-as-a-Service®, this modern cloud identity provider securely manages and connects user identities to the IT resources those users need regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location. This agnostic approach allows IT to create a secure and centralized environment that offers users frictionless access to all of their IT resources.

With one set of credentials, a user can authenticate to systems (Mac, Linux and Windows), legacy and web-based applications, on-prem and virtual files, and wired and wireless networks. Furthermore, IT doesn’t have to worry about upkeep, maintenance, or the complex management that often comes with an on-prem identity management solution. IT admins will be able to enjoy a secure, modern IT environment, and more time on the tasks they want to work on. So if you’re considering and thinking about a managed Active Directory type solution, consider taking a look at Directory-as-a-Service instead.

Learn how our customers are using our Active Directory replacement by reading Grab’s case study. They were able to centralize 3000+ users and their access to Mac systems, G Suite, applications, and networks. If you have any questions about our alternative solution to a managed Active Directory, we hope you’ll reach out to us. You are also encouraged to sign up for a free account. All of our features are available, and your first ten users are free forever.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

Continue Learning with our Newsletter