Open Source Active Directory®

By Natalie Bluhm Posted March 24, 2018

Microsoft® Active Directory® has been the most popular identity management solution in the directory services category for almost two decades. But, as the IT environment changes and there is a shift to heterogeneous platforms, is an open source Active Directory in the cards?

The short answer is that while open source tools are usually great, the identity management category has produced a rather limited array of open source solutions on a relative basis. The second part of this is that IT organizations aren’t just looking for open source, but rather cloud-based solutions (if they happen to be open source all the better). Let’s take a closer look at these two aspects that are part of the general interest in an open source Active Directory.

Open Source Alternatives to Active Directory


In the identity management arena there are a number of open source solutions that could qualify here. Of course, the most well known is OpenLDAP, but there are others such as Samba and FreeIPA. Each of these solutions comes with their own set of strengths and challenges, so let’s take a look at what these are.


OpenLDAP is the most popular LDAP server today. It is highly flexible, and it is focused on providing core directory services to resources that leverage the LDAP protocol. The problem with OpenLDAP is that many IT resources prefer other protocols such as SAML, RADIUS, and even native integrations. So, the challenge with OpenLDAP is that IT admins have to contend with either multiple directory services or a decentralized environment.


nas server

Samba is best known as a file and print service for non-Windows platforms. While it serves somewhat as a directory service/domain controller, it is often utilized with Active Directory to extend it to non-Windows® IT resources. Samba is usually not used as a stand-alone solution, so the challenge with this open source option is that IT admins still end up having Active Directory in their environment.


FreeIPA is focused on one aspect of the identity management space as well: Linux users and hosts. FreeIPA is a combination of LDAP, Kerberos, DNS, and more. However, FreeIPA is rarely used on its own. Much like Samba, FreeIPA is often leveraged in conjunction with Active Directory. So, FreeIPA’s main con is that it also doesn’t have a reputation for being a sole directory service.

By taking a look at these three open source platforms, it’s clear that not many IT organizations have been successful in implementing a stand-alone, open source directory service. Another characteristic to note is that none of these options are delivered as a cloud service, and the cloud component is just as important.

It’s Not Just about Open Source

cloud hosted solution

A true SaaS Active Directory alternative takes on the responsibility of managing the availability, maintenance, and configuration that is part of being a directory service. Removing these tasks gives IT admins a lot more time to focus on higher priority company initiatives. Fortunately, a solution called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® has emerged that’s even better than an open source Active Directory.

Open Source Active Directory Alternative – JumpCloud


While not an open source IDaaS platform, JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is an independent cloud directory platform that works with virtually all platforms, protocols, providers, and locations to manage user access to IT resources. By implementing JumpCloud, it is possible to centralize user access to the following:

This cloud-based directory service is truly everything IT admins are looking for. It is delivered from the cloud, it integrates with all IT resources, and it can truly replace Active Directory.

Discover More about JumpCloud

Learn more about an open source Active Directory alternative by dropping us a note. You are also more than welcome to start testing our cloud-based solution by signing up for a free account. You’ll be able to explore all of our features 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.

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