Sync AD with Linux

Written by Cassa Niedringhaus on December 18, 2019

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Is it possible to sync Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) with Linux®? The short answer is yes — you can connect Linux systems to AD.

The longer answer is that it can be difficult and time consuming to do so. Generally, Linux operating systems can authenticate via AD, but the challenge is the lack of full user management, including provisioning, deprovisioning, and modifying users.

Options for Syncing AD with Linux

There are various options to sync Linux machines with AD. One option is to configure LDAP to route through the pluggable authentication module.

Another option is the open-source FreeIPA, which enables you to “set up trust relationships with AD Forests” and allows Linux users to input their AD credentials to access their machines.

Yet another option is System Security Services Daemon (SSSD), a program that establishes a local system as an SSSD client and connects it to various domains, including AD. It allows, again, Linux users to input their AD credentials so they can access their workstations. The realmd system can help to streamline the SSSD configuration process. 

These options, along with other open-source and commercial options, are not without their challenges, though.

Challenges in Syncing

Using one of the above options to sync Linux and AD introduces additional configuration work and potential security flaws. For example, using SSSD without realmd is an involved process with a variety of factors to consider.

IT admins looking to streamline their operations might not want to invest the time and manual labor into configuring these solutions when it’s only one of the many tasks they’re expected to complete.

Beyond that, these options don’t address the need to sync other non-Windows and cloud resources with AD, such as Mac® systems and web applications, which require additional configuration or tools to do so.

Another challenge is that many IT organizations host their Linux systems with Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers like AWS®. AD requires a direct connection to function, thereby forcing system admins and DevOps engineers into networking gymnastics to make everything function securely when connecting hosted systems with AD. 

Maintaining AD as the core identity provider is appealing to IT admins who have invested in the infrastructure, licensing, and time to become experts in it. However, the increasing number of vendors and the rise in “as-a-Service” and cloud offerings challenge AD’s authority.

Alternative Options

For most situations, there is an easier way to sync Active Directory with Linux systems. Select cloud providers are up for the task of syncing AD not only with Linux systems but also with other non-Microsoft and cloud resources, including JumpCloud®.

By leveraging JumpCloud’s Active Directory Integration technology, sysadmins and DevOps engineers can effectively bypass the pain of connecting AD to Linux systems, as well as increase their control over those systems. This control includes the ability to execute commands and scripts similar to group policy objects (GPOs) for Windows machines and manage SSH keys. They can do the same for other major operating systems, too.

To learn more, check out the video below or visit other resource pages. You can also try out the product — your first 10 users and systems are free forever. Plus, for those IT admins who don’t have AD or aren’t attached to it, JumpCloud can serve as the core identity provider.

Cassa Niedringhaus

Cassa is a product marketing specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Magazine Writing from the University of Missouri. When she’s not at work, she likes to hike, ski and read.

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