The Future of macOS® Open Directory

Written by Vince Lujan on May 7, 2018

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With the recent announcements from Apple® surrounding macOS® Server, there is a legitimate question about the future of macOS Open Directory (OD). Apple has slowly been deprecating various components of macOS Server, and it would appear that they are shifting away from the Open Directory platform entirely. As a result, IT organizations leveraging Open Directory must consider the future of their identity management strategy.

Fortunately, IT admins need not worry because a comprehensive cloud directory has recently emerged that is a reimagination of traditional directory services, but for modern IT networks. This solution may represent the future of macOS Open Directory, but to understand why, we must first look to the past.

The Origins of macOS Open Directory

macOS open directory

Apple introduced Open Directory many years ago, primarily to compete against Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD). Active Directory is Microsoft’s on-prem directory services platform designed for managing Windows® users, systems, and applications. Of course, Microsoft didn’t make it easy to manage a competing platform (i.e., macOS). That’s why Apple needed to take matters into their own hands and deliver a similar solution designed for managing macOS users, systems, and applications. Open Directory offered feature parity for Apple in their quest to get into the enterprise, and for a while it did just that.

The Evolution of macOS Open Directory

evolution of directory services

It should come as no surprise that Mac-centric organizations have been leveraging Open Directory as a core part of their IT infrastructure ever since it was introduced. After all, Open Directory is essentially the Active Directory for Mac® systems. Over the years, Apple has even tried to make Open Directory work and feel like Active Directory, which went on to become the preferred option for on-prem identity providers on the basis of market share. So, as Apple moves away from macOS server, Mac organizations can’t help but worry about what this means for their identity management infrastructure.

Part of the reason that Apple is moving away from Open Directory is the dramatic shift to the cloud. There are more solutions and service providers that can solve core IT management and infrastructure needs than ever before. In fact, IT admins don’t even need to run their own on-prem servers or data centers anymore. So, why should IT run their own on-prem directory services solution? The short answer is, they shouldn’t.

The fact is there’s no reason to use an on-prem directory services solution anymore. Furthermore, the continued use of antiquated directory services platforms like AD and Open Directory presents a number of drawbacks. For that reason, it seems reasonable to surmise that Apple thinks the future of macOS Open Directory is in the cloud.

The Future of macOS Open Directory


The future of macOS Open Directory, of course, remains to be seen. However, IT admins don’t have to wait for Apple to see the future of Mac management in action today. This is because a next generation cloud identity management platform is emerging that will replace on-prem solutions such as AD and OD by delivering a next generation cloud directory. This SaaS-based cloud directory seamlessly provides Mac management as well as Windows, Linux, and beyond. The same platform also includes centralized user management, cloud LDAP, hosted RADIUS, 2FA, system management, True Single Sign-On, and much more. It’s called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, and it empowers IT admins with the option to leverage the next generation of identity management within their organization.

Learn More About the Future of macOS Open Directory

Check out our whiteboard presentation to see why the JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service platform represents the future of directory services. Contact the JumpCloud team or schedule a demo if you have any questions. You can also sign up for a free account to see the future of macOS Open Directory in action today. Your first 10 users are free forever!

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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