By Zach DeMeyer Posted June 8, 2019
OpenLDAP™ is one of the longest used identity and access management (IAM) tools on the market today. The open source solution has been around for a long time, but recently, OpenLDAP competition has become a hot topic in the IAM space. While there are several potential competitors worth considering, the truth is that the best OpenLDAP competition is OpenLDAP itself, hosted from the cloud. Before we dive into cloud OpenLDAP, let’s first go over the rest of its competitors.
Microsoft® Active Directory®
A cornerstone of traditional IAM is the classic Microsoft directory service, Active Directory (AD). The commercial directory service, based heavily on the LDAP protocol, came about around the same time that developers curated the open source OpenLDAP. Due to this, the two solutions have long jostled for IAM pole position, although AD has the lion’s share of the market.
Despite its popularity, a major drawback of AD compared to OpenLDAP is the fact that AD is not free like the open source solution. Cost-conscious organizations looking for an OpenLDAP alternative will probably want to avoid adding AD to their IAM approach.
As an open source IAM solution, OpenLDAP has been supported by several vendors throughout its years. Most recently, OpenLDAP has been under the wing of open source standouts, Red Hat. Red Hat has built a position as a top-tier open source community, so it makes sense that one of the longest standing open source solutions would fall into their laps.
Recently, however, Red Hat announced they would cease their support of OpenLDAP, devoting their resources behind it to their own LDAP solution, 389 Directory. In essence, 389 is analogous to OpenLDAP, requiring dedicated servers on-prem to function. Both also require a good chunk of technical know-how to properly operate, although since Red Hat provides support for 389 over OpenLDAP, it is easier to get assistance for implementing 389 Directory.
Apple® Open Directory
A struggle often met by IT admins when using OpenLDAP is difficulty authenticating LDAP access for Mac systems, which are rapidly becoming a mainstay in the modern office. Apple rose to meet this need shortly after the boom in popularity of Active Directory, releasing their own directory solution, Open Directory.
Like AD and OpenLDAP, Open Directory is an on-prem IAM tool, but has seemingly run its course, even among Mac admins. Compared to OpenLDAP, Open Directory has been relatively unsupported since the late 2000s, and required paid licenses to use.
Apache Directory Studio
Last on our list of OpenLDAP competition is Apache Directory Studio. Apache Directory hits a sweet spot between OpenLDAP and AD as an open source LDAP implementation, like OpenLDAP, but is also a more complete directory service leveraging Kerberos as well, like AD.
Unfortunately, Apache Directory Studio needs on-prem servers, as well as the technical knowledge required to properly manage and maintain the instance. Similar to the other competition above, the amount of money and work necessary for Apache Directory Studio makes it a daunting choice for many IT organizations.
OpenLDAP Competition from the Cloud
After surveying the playing field, you can see why a new approach to OpenLDAP would be game-changing for IT admins and DevOps engineers. Ultimately, in the cloud era, solutions that require intensive maintenance and on-prem server space are quickly falling out of favor as businesses are looking to be more efficient and agile in IT.
Thankfully, as we said before, there is OpenLDAP competition coming from the cloud that hosts a global web of OpenLDAP servers to enable IT admins to authenticate LDAP access from anywhere. With LDAP-as-a-Service, all of the work, server, and space costs are alleviated from IT organizations completely. Admins simply need to use a single browser console to manage all of their LDAP authentication from the cloud.
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LDAP-as-a-Service is a part of the JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service® product. Using JumpCloud, IT organizations can not only manage LDAP, but SAML application access, RADIUS network authentication, cross-OS systems, cloud infrastructure, and more from one admin console in the cloud.
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