What Is Centrify®?

By Ryan Squires Posted August 1, 2019

As IT organizations look to connect their non-Windows® resources to Microsoft® Active Directory®, one question comes up quite often: what is Centrify®? In web searches targeted at discovering a way to extend AD, Centrify comes up quite a bit, so it’s important to understand what their product does. 

In short, Centrify was an identity bridge. We use the past tense to say that Centrify was an identity bridge because the product recently faced EOL and Centrify split into two companies—Idaptive® and Centify. Previously, the Centrify Express product extended legacy, on-prem Microsoft Active Directory identities to non-Windows resources such as Mac® and Linux® systems as well as web applications. Centrify was essentially an add-on to on-prem Active Directory infrastructure. 

So what is Centrify now? It seems as though the current incarnation of Centrify will keep the privileged access management components (Linux and network infrastructure authentication). Idaptive, on the other hand, looks to follow the traditional first generation IDaaS path that has been paved by companies such as Okta® and OneLogin™.

Instead of Asking What Centrify Is, Ask What It Isn’t

Why Cloud System Management

What we should really be asking when we attempt to define Centrify’s now defunct role is more of a question about the right approach to identity management in the cloud era. Do we want to continue to leverage on-prem hardware and its expenses when the industry is shifting to the cloud? No longer are IT networks based on just Microsoft Windows®. They’re an amalgamation of different types of solutions including G Suite, Office 365, AWS® and GCP, Mac® and Linux® machines, web applications such as Slack, Github, Salesforce®, cloud and physical file servers (NAS devices, Samba file servers, and Box™) and many other types of IT resources. So, with all of these IT changes, why must the directory remain on-prem and require add ons like Centrify to work with all these resources?

Resulting from the shift of IT resources in most environments (Windows-based workstations, wired networks, on-prem file servers) to what we have today in our cloud-forward environment (Macbooks®, WiFi, and cloud storage) IT organizations are struggling to extend their legacy directory service to these modern IT resources. Historically, on-prem identity bridges such as Centrify extended AD to some of these new digital tools, but not all. While it may seem like a good approach, Centrify’s scope was limited in that it still required Active Directory on-prem to fulfill its purpose. 

The shift to the cloud is underway; so IT admins really have two options. One is to extend AD identities to these modern, cloud IT resources and the second is to eliminate AD altogether and find a cloud directory service.

Both options have benefits and drawbacks and each organization’s requirements will be different. In the case of cloud forward organizations, continuing to purchase CALs, maintaining AD implementations, and spending time deploying add-ons to AD are all activities they would like to avoid. For those that are tied to their on-prem identity provider, a Centrify implementation made sense to extend AD to non-Windows resources. 

A New Way Forward

So, here we are. What should IT admins do for identity and access management (IAM) in a modern IT network? The short answer is to look at replacing your identity provider (IdP), in this case AD, with something based in the cloud. For many organizations, the most effective cloud IdP is JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®. JumpCloud thinks about the problem of securely connecting users to the IT resources differently. As a cloud-based source of truth for identities from the cloud, JumpCloud can connect you to more resources, more easily than you can using add-ons such as Centrify along with AD.

AD To Non-Windows Resources

But if the thought of having to get rid of all your existing on-prem Active Directory infrastructure is too much, JumpCloud has a solution there too. You can now leverage AD Integration from JumpCloud to fill the gap in your IAM solution left by Centrify’s EOL and extend AD to non-Windows IT resources. 

With AD Sync (an add-on component of the AD Integration platform), you can tightly integrate your macOS® devices into Active Directory. End users can leverage their AD credentials to access their Mac systems while also accessing other on-prem Windows resources such as file servers, applications, and other IT resources. Further, with AD Sync end users can change passwords directly on their Mac systems which will automatically update to your Active Directory implementation and vice versa. For users, it means a streamlined and easy-to-use self-service password tool. For IT admins, that means a significant reduction in help desk tickets, and as a result, saved time. For both IT and end users it means that macOS systems (and non-Windows IT resources) can be leveraged for the good of the organization.

In addition to macOS systems, when you integrate JumpCloud with AD, our cloud-based directory service can securely connect users to web applications, WiFi via RADIUS, authorize and authenticate to LDAP applications, enforce system security standards with Policies, provision identities via Office 365 and G Suite, and much more. 

Learn More About JumpCloud 

Directory-as-a-Service

When asking yourself, “What is Centrify,” consider asking instead, “how do I want to manage my IT resources going forward?” Do you want to do it from the cloud, with minimal upkeep, or do you want to maintain your AD implementation and modernize it with a cloud-based directory tool? If you’re ready to learn more about how JumpCloud can support your IT environment, drop us a line. Or, sign up today and start managing up to 10 users free, forever. 

Ryan Squires

Ryan Squires is a content writer at JumpCloud, a company dedicated to connecting users to the IT resources they need securely and efficiently. He has a degree in Journalism and Media Communication from Colorado State University.

Recent Posts