Serverless Active Directory

Written by Natalie Bluhm on March 4, 2019

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Is there a serverless Active Directory® option? In other words, is there a version of Microsoft® Active Directory (AD) that is delivered from the cloud? The short answer is no, not really. Many believe that Azure® Active Directory is Microsoft’s serverless solution for identity management, but that isn’t quite the case. Let us explain.

Microsoft’s Strategy for Azure AD

You see, Microsoft has established quite the empire with their on-prem Active Directory instance. Not only has it been the leading directory service for the last twenty years, but it’s also entrenched organizations in an on-prem, Windows®-centric network because that’s the type of network it was created to manage. So, not only was Microsoft bringing in a profit from the Windows Server® hardware and licenses it took to use Active Directory, but they were also bringing in significant revenue from the widespread use of Windows systems, Microsoft Office®, and other Microsoft IT resources. For a long time, most IT professionals didn’t mind signing on Microsoft’s dotted line because they received great user and system management out of the deal.

Then, Amazon and Google released their cloud computing services (AWS® and GCP™). Part of Google’s offering was G Suite™ (formerly called Google Apps), a direct competitor to Microsoft Office. To keep up with both of these tech giants, Microsoft created Azure—their own cloud computing service. Off of that, they then created Office 365™ to compete with G Suite. Active Directory wasn’t built to manage access to cloud resources like Office 365, so Microsoft delivered Azure Active Directory to the IT community. Many were hoping Azure AD was a full cloud replacement to Active Directory, but that didn’t end up being the case.

At this time it is still best practice to have an on premises AD synced to Office 365 with AAD connect… you still need to keep the local AD as the source of identity.”

Microsoft representative in a 2018 Spiceworks post.

Basically, Azure AD ended up being a user management system for Azure, Office 365, and a few select web-based applications that had to be added on top of an on-prem Active Directory instance. For Microsoft, it was a smart move because it keeps organizations tied to an on-prem Microsoft ecosystem while also giving organizations one foot into the cloud-forward world. However, many modern organizations want both feet in the cloud, so there are a few other options for a cloud Active Directory that they’ve been considering.

Other Options for Serverless Active Directory

Another option is purchasing a hosted instance of Active Directory from a variety of providers. However, the main concept with this option is that the customer will manage the software, security, load balancing, configuration, and other tasks, while the hosted AD provider will manage the server. In the age of virtual solutions, that’s not the kind of value IT organizations are looking for in a serverless Active Directory.

Plus, any Active Directory option still functions best in a Microsoft-dominated IT environment. That’s a problem because cloud computing and G Suite were just some of the changes to hit the IT landscape over the last decade. Web-based applications, Mac® and Linux® systems, new options for file storage, and wireless networks are some of the other changes that have many IT admins questioning whether or not a homogeneous directory service like AD is really the way to go nowadays.

So if the current serverless AD options aren’t cutting it for IT admins, what will check all the boxes for them? Simply put, sysadmins want a neutral, serverless identity provider (IdP) that is delivered completely from the cloud. Additionally, they’d prefer for the IdP to take on the maintenance, configuration and management of the platform while sysadmins just have to focus on managing users and systems within the solution. It’s a tall order, but there is a serverless Active Directory alternative that is already on it. It is called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

JumpCloud—The Neutral, Serverless IdP

JumpCloud is an open directory service that takes a multi-protocol, vendor-independent, and location-agnostic approach to identity management. This approach empowers IT admins to provide their end users with the best IT resources for the job whether that is Mac, Linux, or Windows systems; legacy or web-based applications; physical or virtual files storage; and wired or wireless networks. Furthermore, JumpCloud is truly serverless, so IT organizations can completely shift their directory service to the cloud. What about the security, configuration, and maintenance of the solution? JumpCloud takes care of that, too, so that IT admins can just focus on making work happen for everyone in their organization.

Learn More

Find out more about the benefits of a serverless Active Directory alternative by reading the Cabify Case Study. Cabify has truly enjoyed not having an on-prem identity management solution. If you are convinced a cloud directory service is the perfect fit for your IT environment, there are a couple ways you can jump in. The first way is to sign up for a free account. You’ll have unlimited access to the platform, and your first ten users are free forever. The other option for getting started is to reach out to us with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. A product expert will promptly get back to you and will gladly work with you to see what you need and how we can help.

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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