By Vince Lujan Posted October 4, 2019
Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) has been a foundational identity and access management (IAM) solution in virtually every IT organization since it was first introduced in 1999. However, in the midst of the cloud era now 20 years later, many IT admins are wondering if they can retire Active Directory.
After all, Active Directory is a legacy IAM platform that was designed for on-prem networks of Windows®-based IT resources. Although there are plenty of directory extension add-ons available for non-Windows and remote resources, admins are searching for a next generation Active Directory alternative that simplifies the process and reduces costs.
Fortunately, the cloud has enabled forward-thinking developers to consolidate what was once a complex ecosystem of disparate solutions and methodologies into more comprehensive alternatives. Now, there are powerful cloud IAM solutions that are effectively Active Directory and LDAP reimagined for the modern era.
Why Retire AD?
Active Directory is an on-prem directory services solution from Microsoft. AD serves as the core identity provider (IdP) in traditional IT organizations and works to connect users to their on-prem Windows systems and applications.
This Windows-centric approach made sense over the last couple of decades because the vast majority of IT networks were based on Windows. Now, however, IT networks are far more complex, and AD has struggled to keep pace.
Cloud infrastructure from AWS®; web applications such as Github, Slack, and Salesforce; macOS® and Linux® systems; new types of data storage solutions from Google Drive™ and on-prem Samba file servers; WiFi; and more are changing the approach to managing user and system management. Although AD is excellent for on-prem Windows environments, it’s not as suitable for cross-platform environments spanning multiple locations.
Reimagining Directory Services
Modern IT admins need a solution that supports non-Windows and remote IT resources in a native sense. The trouble is that old habits die hard and most IT organizations simply haven’t considered the option to retire AD.
Rather, many have focused on adding solutions to compensate for AD’s weaknesses. These solutions have included identity bridges, web application single sign-on (SSO), privileged access management (PAM/PIM), multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA), and many more.
It was historically a solid option—and really the only option—but IT organizations are now looking to completely shift their IT management infrastructure to cloud-based solutions. The result is a search for a cloud identity management solution that is effectively a modern replacement to Active Directory.
Next Generation Active Directory Alternative
Ideally, this platform would connect users to their systems, applications, files, and networks regardless of platform, protocol, provider, and location. It would also accomplish this feat without anything on-prem and without the need for an array of third-party add-on utilities.
Fortunately, a next-generation Directory-as-a-Service®, by JumpCloud®, has emerged that fits the bill. Directory-as-a-Service is a neutral IdP that securely manages and connects users to virtually any IT resource from the cloud.
This includes Windows, macOS, and Linux systems, cloud and on-prem applications, physical and virtual file servers, and networks spanning multiple locations. As a result, IT admins can now manage their entire network without suffering the pitfalls of traditional solutions.