Universal Directory vs. Unified Directory

Written by Megan Anderson on January 8, 2020

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Okta and OneLogin have entered the directory market with Universal Directory and Unified Directory, respectively. However, IT admins have debated on whether these solutions are truly directory services. To clear up some confusion, let’s explore Universal Directory vs. Unified Directory.

Unified vs. Universal: Key Differences

Similar to AWS® Cloud Directory, many modern directory solutions are a hierarchical repository for user data and attributes from other systems. These solutions are meant to integrate user attributes from a wide range of systems within the organization. Think HR data integrated with other user profile data into one complete user centric database. That’s essentially one part of the directory market.

It seems as though both Unified Directory and Universal Directory are taking this approach, which makes sense considering Okta and OneLogin both specialize in SSO –– meaning that they often sit on top of a core identity provider such as Active Directory.

There is another category of directory services solution that focuses on not only user attributes, but also authenticating and authorizing user access to a wide range of IT resources including systems, file servers, networks, and, of course, applications. Often these solutions are called identity providers as well.

There are key differences that separate the identity provider type of directory-based services from their cloud directory counterparts that focus on attribute data and their associations with each other. 

Here’s a brief overview of how Unified Directory and Universal Directory compare.

OneLogin Unified Directory

OneLogin Unified Directory (not to be confused with Oracle Unified Directory) seems to sync user information from various directories and allows admins to manage them from a cloud-based platform. Although it’s described as a cloud-based directory service, it seems as though an existing directory (LDAP, Active Directory®, etc.) or HR system is required as a source for user information.

Universal Directory

Universal Directory is similar in that it also integrates with other directories and allows admins to manage users remotely. The main difference appears to be that Universal Directory has been around longer and therefore has had more time to grow. As such, it’s gradually gaining more features to make it a more fully featured cloud directory.

Are Universal and Unified Directory Actual Directories?

Although both Unified Directory and Universal Directory provide some of the same features as an independent directory service or identity provider, they seem to serve organizations better in conjunction with Active Directory. Pairing either with AD seems to complete the missing functionality between them.

Some admins may be content with these tools, but there is another tool that is a cloud identity provider that can serve as a replacement to Active Directory. It can also be used to integrate with AD, LDAP, and many other directories/systems. But it can also stand on its own, providing authentication and authorization services for users when accessing a wide range of IT resources including Mac, Windows, and Linux systems, cloud and on-prem servers from AWS, web and on-prem applications via SAML and LDAP, WiFi and VPN networks through RADIUS, and physical and virtual file servers. For admins interested in gaining full control over user authentication, and eliminating the need for on-prem or less robust options, consider adopting JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

Learn More

Instead of trying to divine the difference between Universal Directory and Unified Directory, look toward a true Directory-as-a-Service®. Visit our knowledge base for more information on what DaaS is capable of, or schedule a free demo to see how it can work for your organization.

Megan Anderson

Megan is a content writer at JumpCloud with a B.A. in English from MSU Denver. Colorado-born and raised, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and all manner of dogs.

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