Transformation of Directory Services

Written by Zach DeMeyer on October 9, 2019

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The directory services market is currently in a renaissance. For nearly the last 20 years, not much has changed in the space. But now, it is undergoing a metamorphosis, like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Let’s take a look at the final product of this directory services transformation. 

Traditional Directory Services: The “Caterpillars”

Since the inception of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) in 1993, the directory service, or identity provider (IdP), has been a go-to for IT organizations. A directory service provides a centralized location for admins to manage their users, their identities, and their access to IT-related resources. 

LDAP went on to pave the way for several big names to establish themselves in the directory services market. Namely, two major solutions that arose with LDAP as their backbone are Microsoft® Active Directory® (MAD), the commercial leader in the space, and OpenLDAP™, the open-source platform of choice.

In an age when the majority of IT identity management pertained to Windows® systems, applications, files, and servers, Active Directory excelled and became the de facto market share leader. Linux server adoption and more technical applications built on Linux would drive OpenLDAP usage. Both MAD and OpenLDAP became go-to directory services from the early 2000s to today.

The Cloud “Chrysalis”

While the directory service rooted itself on-prem via MAD/OpenLDAP, the rest of the IT environment surrounding it changed entirely. Organizations today are leveraging more Mac® and Linux® systems than ever. Cloud infrastructure and web applications are a mainstay of virtually every organization. WiFi and online security are now a core part of everyday life. Mobility is not only changing how we work but where we live and how we live.

Unfortunately, the directory service, as it was, was ill-equipped to deal with the modern IT landscape. While it excelled at all things on-prem and Windows-based, the world around it no longer held the same values. 

As a result, IT admins have had to surround their core identity provider with tools to help it adapt to their evolving environments. For web applications, they sought single sign-on (SSO). For non-Windows systems (i.e. macOS® and Linux), identity bridges filled the need. Other solutions were required for multi-factor authentication (MFA), governance, and more.

Although these point solutions helped to cover IT admins’ needs, they often ended up cementing their infrastructure on-prem, as well increasing costs and integration work. Clearly, a transformation was needed in the directory service space.

The Cloud Directory Service “Butterfly”

Thankfully, new and innovative organizations are now emerging to transform the directory services space altogether. The concept of a directory service and all of the added-on solutions required to make them effectively operate in the cloud era have coalesced in one centralized solution that’s spreading its wings in the market: the cloud directory service.

With a cloud directory service, IT organizations can manage virtually all of their IT resources: systems, applications, infrastructure, and more, regardless of their vendor or location. The same concept of centralized IT control from a single solution is akin to a reimagination of AD and LDAP for the modern era.

Transforming the Directory Service

The cloud directory service is an auspicious prospect for IT organizations. There is, of course, the problem of figuring out how to make the transformation. Generally, IT organizations have three major options for the transformation of their identity management infrastructure.

    1.  Implement a Cloud Directory Service

For those without a directory service, the explosion of IT resources that their end users are leveraging can be overwhelming. A cloud directory service can bring order to the chaos of managing user access to a wide range of IT services and resources.

     2. Extend Active Directory

IT organizations with AD deeply embedded in their organizations may be wondering whether they can partake in the transformation of directory services. The short answer is, of course! By leveraging a cloud identity bridge, IT admins can maximize the ROI of their AD infrastructure while still accessing modern, innovative IT resources such as AWS®, GitHub, G Suite™ / Office 365™, and many more.

     3. Replace Active Directory

More organizations than ever are making it a mandate to shift completely to the cloud, which  means retiring Active Directory from their infrastructure and foregoing it completely. The challenge, of course, is how to migrate seamlessly and maintain functionality such as GPOs. Thankfully, a cloud directory service can serve such a purpose.

Learn More

The transformation of your directory services infrastructure can be a significant catalyst for growth of your business, leveraging modern technology and increasing productivity. If you would like to learn more about the possibility of transforming your organization’s identity management with a cloud directory service, please reach out to us. We can help you conduct your own metamorphosis.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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