In Blog, Cloud Infrastructure

Organizations have been outsourcing IT resources over the past decade, and just about every IT category has made the leap to the cloud. And, while directory services platforms have historically been one of the slowest categories to shift to the ‘as-a-Service’ model, a new outsourced cloud directory is enabling IT organizations to leverage a cloud identity provider (IdP) instead of traditional, on-prem identity management solutions. An outsourced cloud directory can be highly advantageous for a number of reasons, which we will discuss in this blog post. But first, let’s outline a few of the characteristics of legacy directory services in order to reveal why an outsourced cloud directory is superior.

Characteristics of Legacy Identity Management Platforms

The modern era of identity and access management (IAM) can trace its origin to the advent of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). LDAP was created in 1993 by Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan as a means of securing decentralized IT environments. Howes told us in an interview that LDAP was also designed as a lightweight alternative to the previous directory service standard known as X.500. LDAP was such an effective replacement for X.500 that LDAPv3 became the internet standard for directory services in 1997, and the protocol itself laid the foundation for a number of identity management solutions that are still in use today. In fact, the two most popular on-prem directory services platforms that emerged from LDAP, which are OpenLDAP and Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD), can still be found in many modern IT organizations.

Of course, AD has been far more dominant than OpenLDAP ever since the late 1990s, when both platforms were introduced. But, the dominance of AD also makes a lot of sense, given that most IT networks used to be on-prem and heavily favored Windows® prior to the new millenium. IT admins simply leveraged the best tool for the job, which was AD. Now, though, organizations have discovered that new tools are required as modern IT infrastructure continues to diversify and shift to the cloud. For example, modern IT admins have to deal with Mac® and Linux® devices, web applications leveraging SAML, cloud infrastructure at AWS® and GCP, third-party storage devices such as Samba File Servers and NAS appliances, and a lot more. All of these innovations are difficult to manage with traditional methods. The end result is that IT admins have started to look for a better approach to IAM.

Outsourced Cloud Directory: Directory-as-a-Service

JumpCloud directory-as-a-serviceThe need for a better identity management solution is why an outsourced cloud directory, called JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service, has become such an interesting option. This hosted directory services platform securely manages and connects users to the IT resources they need, regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location. The primary advantage with this approach is that IT admins can connect users to virtually any digital asset from the cloud. Systems (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux), web and on-prem applications leveraging SAML and LDAP, traditional and cloud storage (e.g., Samba, NAS, Dropbox, Google Drive), cloud productivity platforms such as G Suite and Office 365, cloud infrastructure at AWS or GCP, and more are all examples––all of which can be managed with one comprehensive cloud-based solution that doesn’t require anything on-prem. Essentially, JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is AD and OpenLDAP reimagined for the cloud era.  

Learn More about the Outsourced Cloud Directory

Check out our whiteboard video to learn more about cloud IAM protocols and architecture. You can also contact the JumpCloud team, or sign up for a Directory-as-a-Service account to see an outsourced cloud directory in action. Your first ten users are free forever.

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