Modern Directory Service Options

By Zach DeMeyer Posted September 24, 2019

Directory services have been around for decades. For the past 20 years or so, one solution has essentially dominated the directory services market—Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD). Of course, a lot has changed in the last 20 years, so many IT admins are curious about modern directory services options.

Why Modern Directory Services?

When thinking about options for a modern directory service, there are really two key considerations behind the search. The first is evaluating the current IT landscape and identifying what the big picture approaches to directory services are. The second, of course, is finding which specific solutions can be utilized. Let’s dive into them both.

What is the State of the IT Landscape?

The driver for this question is really about the fact that the IT network no longer revolves around Microsoft Windows®. In the early days of IT in the enterprise, nearly everything, from systems to applications, emails, and file servers were associated with Windows. So, it only made sense to use a directory service like Active Directory that was designed for Windows to manage access to them all.

Now, web applications, cloud infrastructure, macOS® and Linux® systems, WiFi, and much more have put tremendous pressure on how IT admins manage user access. These resources present a challenge to traditional, AD-based identity and access management (IAM) because AD struggles to connect user identities to these resources. This puts a strain on the capabilities of the IT organizations that rely upon it because it requires the purchase of additional tools to make up for potential shortcomings. 

Three Choices

Ideally, a directory service would connect users to everything that they need to access, regardless of where it comes from. As a result, most organizations have three options regarding the bigger picture of their IAM with a directory service. If they don’t have a directory service, they should look into putting one in place and start locking down their identity and access management process. If they already have one (most likely AD), the two remaining options are either to extend AD to modern IT resources, or replace it entirely.

An organization’s infrastructure and requirements are the driving force behind making this decision. For a Windows-based organization looking to increase their control over the various non-Windows resources, finding a way to extend AD is a solid choice. For those that are shifting to the cloud and don’t want anything on-prem, replacing AD is a potential path forward. And, for many organizations that are “born” into the cloud without any on-prem IAM infrastructure at all, finding a cloud-based directory service solution may be the answer.

Modern Directory Service Options

In all of these situations, there are modern directory services options which cover the demands of the modern IT environment. No longer do IT organizations need to settle on technology built for a past era. 

There are some considerations behind finding the best option. Key requirements to keep in mind for this modern approach to a directory service are as follows:

Location

With many facets of an organization’s IT infrastructure already shifting to the cloud, there is very little reason to install equipment and infrastructure on-prem anymore. The benefits of cloud IT management tools are well documented and can transform an organization.

Independent

Today’s IT networks are made up of a plethora of different types of solutions, each hailing from different vendors, so being locked into one single vendor’s platforms seems counterintuitive. Managing and controlling access to a wide range of IT resources is essential to modern organizations who value freedom of choice for their resources.

Standalone/Integratable

A modern identity management solution can either replace the legacy Active Directory platform or extend it, giving IT organizations a great deal of flexibility regarding their choice of identity management posture.

Highly Secure

The number one attack vector for organizations is compromised identities. Any modern directory services solution should level up an organization’s security.

Finding the Right Solution

When taking all of these requirements into consideration, IT admins searching for a modern cloud directory can be confident that their choice will help their organization improve their identity management as a whole. If you are curious about implementing a modern cloud directory service solution in your organization, please contact us. As experts in the cloud IAM industry, we’d be happy to help you.

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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