Outsourced Microsoft Active Directory (AD)

Written by Greg Keller on March 9, 2016

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As more organizations shift their IT infrastructure to the cloud, they are also searching for ways to house their on-premises IT resources in the cloud. Data centers and on-premises servers are shifting to Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers such as AWS®, Azure®, and Google Compute Engine™. Applications behind the firewall are moving to the cloud. Email and productivity applications are being provided by G Suite™ and Office 365™. Another area that is just beginning to be outsourced to cloud providers is Microsoft® Active Directory®. Let’s take a closer look at the numerous benefits and challenges with an outsourced Microsoft AD implementation.

The Internal AD Foundation is Buckling

Historically, identity providers, such as Microsoft AD, have been housed internally. Conventional wisdom has dictated that a core directory service should not be exposed to the outside world due to security concerns. Further, most IT resources were located behind the firewall, so there was no need to shift the core user store to the cloud. As more IT resources have shifted to the cloud and proliferated to other platforms, cracks have emerged with the internal AD strategy.

Fissures Found in Outsourced Microsoft Active Directory

There are many providers that have focused on being an outsourced AD service. Microsoft’s Azure AD is probably the most well-known, but here’s the problem: it is not a replacement for the traditional AD. AWS has also announced a hosted and managed AD directory service. And, of course, there are any number of third-party hosting providers that will stand-up an AD server and allow you to manage it. The benefits of this approach are that the provider procures and manages the software and hardware, maintains the data center environment, and handles backups, data storage, and security. For organizations set on using AD as their directory service, an outsourced AD model can be helpful.

There are inherent drawbacks of Microsoft Active Directory. AD was created in the late 1990s and is centered on one type of IT environment: largely Microsoft-based and behind the firewall. AD wasn’t built for the cloud era or a heterogeneous IT environment. Cloud infrastructure that accompanies AWS or Google Compute Engine is often Linux. Organizations are filled with on-prem Macs, iPhones, and Android devices. Simply put, AD struggles in these environments. For IT professionals, the question then becomes, how does the concept of an outsourced Active Directory work in the modern IT environment?

Crack the Active Directory Code with Directory-as-a-Service

The answer is an innovative cloud-based directory service called Directory-as-a-Service. Think of it as AD reimagined for today’s IT environments. It’s a directory service that is SaaS-based, cross-platform, location agnostic, and protocol independent. In a world where Google Apps, Macs, WiFi networks, and other IT resources are disrupting the legacy approaches, a new cloud identity provider is a must.

If you would like to learn more about how you can have a next generation outsourced Microsoft AD-like solution, take a look at Directory-as-a-Service. It might dovetail nicely with your plans to leverage the cloud. Drop us a note if you have more questions, or feel free to give it a try for yourself.

Greg Keller

JumpCloud CTO, Greg Keller is a career product visionary and executive management leader. With over two decades of product management, product marketing, and operations experience ranging from startups to global organizations, Greg excels in successful go-to-market execution.

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