By Ryan Squires Posted January 22, 2019
What is Azure AD Connect? It’s a fair question considering Microsoft has a lot to offer in the way of Active Directory® (AD) and domain controller platforms under its umbrella. Because Microsoft’s naming schema is somewhat confusing, you are not alone in wondering what exactly Azure AD Connect is and how it fits into the overall approach that Microsoft has taken to directory services. Well, continue reading this blog to find out the answer to the question, “What is Azure AD Connect?”
Azure AD Connect in a Nutshell
To put it simply, Azure AD Connect is a bridge solution between an organization’s on-prem Active Directory instance and cloud-based Azure Active Directory. AD Connect enables IT admins to federate on-prem user identities to the Azure platform. Actually, it’s a good way to enable single sign-on (SSO) without having to set up an Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) instance. So, for Microsoft-focused organizations, this concept of an identity bridge solution, which is very much like the concept of Google Cloud Directory Sync (formerly called Google Apps Directory Sync, GCDS or GADS), makes a lot of sense. So how does Azure AD Connect and Azure AD fit in with the rest of Microsoft’s strategy for Active Directory?
Azure is Complementary, Not Standalone
To sum it up, Microsoft’s strategy with Azure Active Directory hasn’t been to deliver it as a cloud-based replacement to on-prem Active Directory. So, in order to get these two very different services to communicate, additional software was required. AD Connect is that software. What Azure AD Connect does is it enables the connection (hence the name) between these two platforms. Azure AD Connect effectively works by shuttling identities from AD to the Azure Active Directory platform. However, AD Connect is just one of the optional solutions that can be utilized.
Microsoft’s Stable of AD Solutions
For organizations leveraging Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), IT admins can also leverage Active Directory Federated Services (AD FS), or, they can take advantage of Azure Active Directory Domain Services. Azure AD Domain Services creates a domain within the Azure platform. Ultimately, for Microsoft-centric organizations, the multitude of identity and access management (IAM) solutions and components is part and parcel to using the Active Directory family of products. But, we understand that it can be very confusing to get exactly what you need out of these varied and complex products. Add that in with all of the new resources flooding IT environments, and the challenge only grows.
The Struggle of non-Windows Resources and AD
These days, many IT organizations are leveraging a mix of providers and platforms that include macOS® systems, Linux® endpoints, Amazon Web Services® (AWS®) cloud infrastructure, and many other non-Windows solutions. Azure AD struggles with managing identities to all of these different resources because it’s really just a user management platform for Microsoft services like Office 365™ and as a web application single sign-on solution for a set of SaaS applications. So, not only does Azure AD need products like AD Connect to connect identities to on-prem resources, but an IT organization also needs to leverage a plethora of other tools to provide users with access to everything else they need. These tools include identity bridges (for non-Windows systems), web application SSO platforms, multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions, privileged identity management tools, and much more. It’s no surprise that all of these additional solutions add cost, but they also sap time and resources in order to manage an organization’s identities.
A Cloud-based Alternative Emerges
Thankfully, the next generation of identity management solutions has arrived to cut through the word soup and provide a simplified, powerful version of what directory services can and should be. It’s called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, and it is eliminating the need for on-prem AD, cloud Azure AD, AD Connect to bridge the two, and many of the other add-ons that IT organizations are forced to use in order to manage all of their users and decentralized IT resources. From a centralized user console, JumpCloud admins can control user access to systems, applications, files, and networks remotely. Plus, JumpCloud acts as a system management tool, so IT admins can ensure security standards are enforced via GPO-like Policies and commands.
Learn More About JumpCloud
If the answer to what is Azure AD connect is a bit too complex for you, and you’re ready to simplify your directory services approach, feel free to sign up for a free JumpCloud account today. Your free account allows you to manage 10 users and their systems for free, forever. Or, schedule a demo to see our product in action. We also have a comprehensive Knowledge Base and informative YouTube channel to help you get the most out of your JumpCloud account.