What is GCDS (Google Cloud Directory Sync)?

Written by Natalie Bluhm on May 1, 2018

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What is GCDS (Google Cloud Directory Sync)? Well, formerly known as Google Apps Directory Sync, GCDS is a core part of Google’s approach to integrating G Suite (formerly Google Apps) into an organization’s IT infrastructure. GCDS is an identity bridge between on-prem directory services solutions like Microsoft® Active Directory® / OpenLDAP and Google’s cloud platforms G Suite / Google Cloud Platform. The idea is to leverage identities housed within the on-prem identity provider and connect them with Google Apps.

While GCDS is a great tool for connecting on-prem identity providers with Google services, 72% of IT organizations using G Suite and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are interested in shifting all of their infrastructure to the cloud by 2025. This includes the identity provider. Will Google introduce their own cloud version of Active Directory? How does GCDS fit into a cloud-forward strategy? Let’s answer these questions by taking a more in-depth look at Google’s agenda thus far.  

Google’s Strategy with GCDS

g suite contacts manager

Google’s strategy is clearly tied to the success of their business cloud platforms, like GCP and Google Apps. For example, Google created Google Apps as a way to shift email and productivity platforms to the cloud. GApps, as it was known, quickly gained popularity and started to eliminate the need for Microsoft Exchange®, Office®, and Windows File Server®.

The leading on-prem identity provider at the time was Active Directory, and AD wasn’t built to connect with non-Microsoft cloud-based resources. However, IT still needed a way to control user access to these new Google cloud services. Google didn’t want to compete with Active Directory, so that is where GCDS comes in.

Connecting AD with Google

google cloud directory sync

Google’s strategy was to leverage the entrenched identity provider, Active Directory, to feed user identities to their services. IT admins wouldn’t need to make a change with their core directory service, instead they would connect it to Google’s directory via an identity bridge. This was the workflow Google had in mind with Google Cloud Directory Sync.

The benefit for IT admins was that they could keep their directory service on-prem with AD, and simply shift their email, productivity, and file server to the cloud. This approach worked well at the beginning, but then IT admins began to like how the cloud worked. They didn’t need to manage infrastructure, software, availability, or anything else. They simply paid for what they used.

The challenge was that GCDS required another server on-prem and entrenched them with Active Directory further. So, IT organizations were left with one foot in the cloud and one on-prem with the use of Google Cloud Directory Sync. The good news is that there is a different way that IT organizations can shift to the cloud and still leverage G Suite and/or Google Cloud Platform.

JumpCloud’s G Suite Integration

G Suite JumpCloud Integration

Called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, this cloud identity management platform eliminates not only Active Directory but the need for GCDS as well. This cloud directory is an integrated solution that deeply integrates with G Suite and GCP to give full user control over those services.

So how does it work? Well, an OAuth based API creates a tight integration between JumpCloud and your G Suite Directory. This integration makes it possible to manage and provision/deprovision your G Suite users all within the JumpCloud admin console. When used with all of our directory service features, IT admins will gain a single point of control where they can manage user access to not only G Suite, but also to virtually all of their IT resources. This includes systems (Mac®, Linux®, and Windows), on-prem and web-based apps, physical and virtual file storage, and wired and wireless networks.

This comprehensive user and system management approach enables IT organizations to confidently eliminate their on-prem identity provider hardware and software in favor of a cloud-forward solution.

Beyond GCDS

Get more information on the question “what is GCDS,” and find out why you don’t need it when you use JumpCloud by dropping us a note. Of course, you can also start testing the JumpCloud G Suite Integration for yourself by signing up for a free account. Your first ten users are even on us. If you need any help along the way, consider watching our Getting Started with G Suite tutorial.

Natalie Bluhm

Natalie is a writer for JumpCloud, an Identity and Access Management solution designed for the cloud era. Natalie graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing, and she loves learning about cloud infrastructure, identity security, and IT protocols.

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