Managed Directory

Written by Jon Griffin on January 9, 2018

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The directory is one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure in the IT sector. This is because the directory connects users to IT resources that are needed to do their job. It is a core platform that helps with efficiency, productivity, and security. However, it has also been a stagnant piece of technology over the last two decades. As a result, a new managed directory – called Directory-as-a-Service® – is emerging to change the directory services landscape.

The Directory and its Challenges

Active Directory Server fail

The directory space was initially catalyzed by the creation of the open source protocol, LDAP. This authentication protocol was created in the early 1990s by our advisor Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, and it marked the start of the modern directory. This beginning was seen with the production of two major directory services – the open source solution OpenLDAP™ and the commercial solution Microsoft Active Directory®.

Each of these two platforms had their focus and benefits. OpenLDAP would connect users to IT resources that leveraged the LDAP protocol. Microsoft Active Directory took a wider viewpoint on protocols utilizing both LDAP and Kerberos. At the same time their approach to platforms was rather narrow as they focused on working best with Microsoft Windows machines and applications.

These two identity providers, as the directory is often known as, would be located on-prem and would require a direct connection with both users and IT resources in order to function. IT admins would be on the hook for installation, configuration, networking, security, and ongoing maintenance. In short, as a core part of their infrastructure, they needed to spend a great deal of time caring for and managing their directory service.

The Need for a Managed Cloud Directory

As the IT landscape started to change, IT organizations faced new challenges with their identity management infrastructure. Mac and Linux systems started to become more popular. Cloud infrastructure like AWS was replacing on-prem data centers. Web applications and WiFi were growing in popularity. All of these changes ended up adding challenges and workarounds to the workflow, which in turn decreased the effectiveness of on-prem, legacy directory solutions such as Active Directory and OpenLDAP.

To help solve this issue, a new managed directory has started to replace Active Directory and OpenLDAP in modern organizations. Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) is the cloud-based directory that is built for the modern IT environment. With it, IT admins can use one identity to connect users to their systems (Mac, Windows, Linux), cloud and on-prem applications (via SAML and LDAP), physical and virtual file storage (Samba, NAS, Box), web and local servers (AWS, GCP), and wired and WiFi networks through RADIUS. DaaS was created to help admins manage their users and systems more efficiently and stress-free.

Try out the Managed Directory

If you would like to test out the managed directory for yourself, you can always sign up for a free Directory-as-a-Service account. We offer 10 users free forever. No credit card is required, so there’s absolutely no risk involved to you. Then, you can see how much easier directory services can be to manage for yourself. Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about JumpCloud’s centralized directory, you can always reach out to us. We would be happy to answer any questions about how a managed directory can operate in your environment. Check it out today!

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