Serverless Cloud Identity and Access Management

By Ryan Squires Posted November 17, 2018

Serverless Cloud Identity and Access Management

The IT management space is an a constant state of flux. Tools that used to be delivered as on-prem solutions are now moving to the cloud. A key contributor to this change is the cloudward shift in the overall IT environment.  Because the cloud has proven reliable and efficient, companies see the value of moving resources there; we’ve entered the cloud era. In light of this shift, IT organizations now want to move to a serverless cloud identity and access management (IAM) solution and derive the benefits they’ve experienced with cloud apps, file servers, infrastructure, and more.

Traditional Identity and Access Management

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Most IT admins know that the identity and access management space has not always been serverless. The IAM market has, for the most part, been dominated for the past twenty years by Microsoft® Active Directory®. Of course, Microsoft knew that they had a monopoly with Windows® systems and applications, so they leveraged that knowledge to build critical IT management tools. Consequently, these IT management tools—namely AD and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)—reinforced the need to purchase and use Windows-based solutions. It was a virtuous cycle for Microsoft that resulted in their dominance in servers, endpoints, and the enterprise.

New Additions

But, non-Windows platforms started to make their way into the IT environment, and the dynamic started to change. AD lost some of its effectiveness. AWS®, G Suite™, Mac®, Linux®, and many more solutions all put pressure on the core identity provider, Active Directory. These new additions meant that IT organizations had to jump through some hoops to connect their users to the systems, applications, files, and networks needed. The majority of that difficulty stems from the fact that these new resources weren’t native to the Windows ecosystem, it’s a clear case of vendor lock-in. So, IT admins needed a way to connect to these new resources, and there was no shortage of suitors offering band-aid-like solutions to cater to the new tools in the mix.

A resourceful bunch, IT admins worked with what they had and found ways to accommodate the new resources. They started deploying stop-gap solutions to their identity and access management approach with add-ons such as identity bridges, web application single sign-on (SSO) solutions, privileged identity management, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and more. And while these IAM tools may have solved some immediate problems, they created many others including cementing the IT management infrastructure on-prem. Herein lies the major problem, with so many solutions reliant on one single piece of infrastructure, Active Directory, IT admins are forced into choosing solutions based on what is easy to integrate with AD environments, and not necessarily what is best of breed for their end users. Further, some of the most powerful innovations in recent memory are from non-Windows platforms (i.e., Mac, Linux, AWS, GCP), yet AD attempts to lock you into the Windows ecosystem. A new approach was needed.

The Search for Serverless IAM

For innovative IT organizations hesitant to be beholden to an Active Directory implementation and it’s cadre of add-ons, they started to look for a serverless cloud identity and access management solution. At first they ran into Azure® Active Directory, but soon discovered on Spiceworks that Azure AD is no replacement for on-prem AD. It’s a complement to on-prem AD. Further, Azure AD also works to lock IT organizations into Microsoft tools, something many are hesitant to do given the upheaval we’ve previously discussed. So, in order to meet the requirements IT admins had in mind, the next IAM solution had to be delivered from the cloud and be completely neutral. No more getting locked into vendor-specific tools. See, what really needed to change was the identity provider; Active Directory. By fixing the root cause of difficulty, on-prem AD, instead of putting band-aids on it, cross-platform accessibility becomes a possibility.

For example, a platform-agnostic directory could connect users to AWS® just as well as Azure®. Mac and Linux users would experience the same seamless authentication experience that Windows users have experienced thanks to the hard work of IT admins. G Suite, as well as Office 365, could be accessed via a single set of credentials. All of these examples mean that IT admins gain the ability choose whatever solutions are best for their organization and users. And when it comes to users, 68% of those surveyed say that they’re more productive when they have a choice of equipment.

So, how can IT enable a modern, comprehensive approach to identity and access management that is delivered from the cloud? Easy, they can rollout JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. JumpCloud connects users to the wide range of tools that they use every day by leveraging industry-leading protocols like SAML for web apps, LDAP for on-prem apps, Samba for file servers, and RADIUS for strong network protection. Furthermore, True Single Sign-On™ from JumpCloud provides users the ability to connect to virtually any IT resource they need with a single set of credentials. That means AWS servers secured with SSH keys, Atlassian applications like Jira®, Slack, and even the network can all be accessed with one username and password combination.

Sound Too Good to be True?

Sign up today for a free account and experience serverless cloud identity and access management today. JumpCloud’s free account allows you to manage up to 10 users risk free. Good things sometimes are free. If you need to manage more users than that, visit our pricing page for more information. Also, our Knowledge Base and YouTube channel are both great resources to help you get the most out of your JumpCloud account.  

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

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