Virtual Directory

Written by Natalie Bluhm on September 2, 2017

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Directory services are a core component of an organization’s IT infrastructure. A directory service connects users to the IT resources they need. Historically, this core IAM (Identity and Access Management) solution has been hosted on-prem, but now IT organizations are moving to virtual directory services in the cloud.

Modern Directory Services started with the Creation of LDAP

Virtual Directory Services began with OpenLDAP

The modern era of directory services started when our advisor Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan created LDAP. As a directory services protocol, LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) was the logical evolution of the heavyweight x.500 standard.

LDAP brought directory services to business networks. LDAP also spawned two of the most dominant on-prem directory services solutions, OpenLDAP™ and Microsoft Active Directory.

OpenLDAP was useful for Linux-based systems and applications while Active Directory focused on Windows®-based systems and applications.

The Virtualization of IAM and the Directory

Identity and Access Management Pyramid and the Virtual Directory

Over time, a whole sector was created called identity management. This category spanned directory services to include a wide range of add-on solutions: directory extensions, privileged account management, SSO (single sign-on), MFA (multi-factor authentication), and more. IT organizations soon had a whole suite of solutions that securely connected users to the IT resources they needed.

Changes in the IT landscape have reduced the effectiveness of on-prem IAM platforms. Even with the wide range of add-on solutions, IT has wrestled with centralizing their users’ identities. Legacy, on-prem identity management solutions like Active Directory have difficulty in connecting identities to modern resources like web-based apps, Mac and Linux systems, and cloud-based servers like AWS.

So, with many on-prem identity management solutions just not comprehensive enough for the modern era, IT has begun to seek out a core identity provider that is cloud-based, or the virtual directory. While there have been ancillary IAM solutions – such as web application SSO – delivered from the cloud, the core, authoritative directory service has remained on-prem until recently.

A Virtual Directory has Arrived

JumpCloud directory-as-a-service

Directory-as-a-Service® recently emerged as a virtual directory. Rather than just focus on a specific protocol or platform as OpenLDAP and Active Directory had done, this modern cloud identity management provider is focused on creating a platform that is location independent, multi-protocol, platform neutral, and provider agnostic.

A modern virtual directory service securely manages and connects user identities to the IT resources they need including systems (Windows, Mac®, Linux®), web and on-prem applications, cloud and internally hosted servers (e.g AWS®, GCP™, etc), virtual and physical storage systems, and wired and WiFi networks.

Read Patch of Land’s customer story and learn about their experience with replacing their on-prem IAM solution with a virtual identity provider. You’re also encouraged to reach out to us if you would like to learn more about centralizing your modern environment with a virtual directory. If you’re ready to start experiencing a cloud identity management solution, sign up for a free IDaaS account. Your first ten users are free forever.

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