In Best Practices, Blog, Startups, User Management

Sometimes when you’re on a journey, you stop at a place and fall in love with it. You decide that this outcome may be better than the end goal that you had initially started with from the original napkin and pencil sketches.

And, so it goes with our journey with JumpCloud. Last year at TechCrunch Disrupt we unveiled ourselves to the world as a server management company. At that time, we had one key piece of functionality – user management for servers. Since that time, we have added another critical capability – server orchestration. Well, as it turns out, we have had many of our customers and prospects play back what our functionality means to them.

While they used our solutions on their servers, it also made sense for their desktops and laptops. They asked us to broaden our scope to include Macs. They’ve asked us to be their central user management store for all of their users – not just their servers. They asked if they could execute tasks across all of their devices. They asked if they could hook up their applications to our user directory. They’ve wanted us to be their True Single Sign-On™ solution. And, when we asked them what we should call this new creation, now that we were authenticating, authorizing, and managing all kinds of devices and applications. They said: call it Directory-as-a-Service™.

DaaS – a cloud-based directory service. Wow. It knocked us over. They were right. What we had already built was very similar to a cloud-based Active Directory. AD lets you authenticate users, authorize access, and manage your Windows devices. They do it on-premises and with Windows. They have extended some portions of that functionality to the cloud with Azure AD. Many of the people that we spoke with said, why not move the directory to the cloud and expand your device support. We loved the concept. From the very first day that we released our user management functionality, folks have been asking for us to be their hosted LDAP solution or add Macs to our support list. Because we were largely focused on server management these requests were important, but they weren’t the core of what we were working on.

Over time, though, some very critical customers gave us some really interesting insight. They said, just look at what you have built and turn it slightly to look at it from a different angle. You’ve already built a cloud based directory – an Active Directory alternative or OpenLDAP replacement. They were right! Sometimes it is wonderful to have people that care to guide you. And, so, we are going to decide to stay right here: play in the directory services / Identity-as-a-Service space and innovate with a cloud-based solution. There has been little to no innovation in the directory space in recent memory. It’s been a duopoly for decades, between Microsoft’s Active Directory and OpenLDAP itself. Tangentially, all of the action in the identity management space has been with single sign-on lately. Just to be clear, we are not interested in joining the broad web application SSO market. We think that there are some great companies in that space and we would like to work with them.

Our goal is to create “One Directory to Rule Them All®” within an organization. We’d like to reimagine what AD and LDAP could be in a cloud-centric world as a cloud-based service. The IT landscape has changed since the mid-to-late ‘90s when AD and LDAP were introduced. The cloud broke onto the scene and organizations are leveraging it more and more each day. Apple woke from the dead and has become one of the most dominant companies in the world. And, Google threw a grenade into the market with low-cost highly-scalable enterprise-class hosted email. As a result, the organization’s core identity provider has more demands than ever on it and the legacy technologies are not keeping pace.

Directory-as-a-Service for the Modern IT Space

Simply put, a modern directory service needs to securely manage and connect employee identities to the IT resources they need – devices, applications, or network infrastructure. It needs to be cloud-based and connect to back-end cloud infrastructure (e.g. AWS cloud servers). It needs to enable SSO players by being the directory of record similar to how they leverage AD and LDAP. It needs to be able to manage Macs and Linux devices just as AD has been able to manage Windows machines. It needs to enable that one username and password to be used in Google Apps and to login to the WiFi network on-prem. It has to be simple and efficient. IT admins these days are far too busy to manage a complex piece of software. A modern directory service has to take security to a new level. The number one threat to organizations today is compromised credentials. An innovative directory service needs to help IT admins detect compromises. And, it needs to be offered as a service in the cloud. Scalable, efficient, and cost-effective.

In short, that’s JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service. So, we are going to park our flag right here and work to build the next generation directory service. We strongly believe in the need for a cloud-based directory that complements Google Apps (and Office 365 for that matter), connects with cloud infrastructure, and supports all of the device types that are out today and will be invented in the future. We’re excited to have been on our previous path, but even more so to have found our calling with the first two major pieces of functionality that we released – user management and orchestration.

Drop us a line if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments. We are excited to hear what you think. Over the coming weeks you’ll see more of our strategy and product functionality to accomplish our Directory-as-a-Service vision. We are going to start with two components that we have today – user management for Windows and Linux devices and hosted LDAP-as-a-Service. We’ll write more on each of these topics, but if you are interested in having us help you manage your users across those platforms drop us a note. And if you are thinking about whether you want to manage your existing LDAP or spin up a new one, give us a call – I think we can take a lot of the load off of your plate.

I know I speak for the entire team at JumpCloud – we are super excited to dive into the Directory-as-a-Service space and transform it to work and take advantage of the modern IT era. We look forward to seeing you on this journey!

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