What’s Better than Active Directory?

Written by Vince Lujan on April 3, 2018

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IT admins have been using Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) for almost two decades now. In fact, it is one of the most widely used directory services platforms on a market share basis. Yet, as the world shifts to the cloud, IT admins can’t help but wonder, “What’s better than Active Directory?

It’s a great question, which deserves some background to understand how and why AD became such a dominant identity management platform. Let’s dive in!

The Origin of Identity Management

old office

The story of identity management actually begins before AD was introduced. It began when Tim Howes and his colleagues at the University of Michigan kicked off the modern era of identity and access management (IAM) with the advent of the LDAP protocol.

LDAP led to a number of innovations in the space, including the identity providers: OpenLDAP and Active Directory. AD quickly became a hit because it was tightly integrated with the Windows operating system and worked on-prem. The world in the early 2000s was virtually all Windows and the entire IT infrastructure was located close at hand or was just a VPN away. The result was that IT organizations adopted AD in droves.

Active Directory also had some significant capabilities that helped it to be successful including user and system management capabilities. As long as you were connecting users to Windows systems and resources, you effectively had a single sign-on platform. The user would login to their machine, while connected to the network, and then have access to anything that they needed. IT organizations also benefited with control over Windows systems via Group Policy Objects (GPOs).

With that in mind, it is easy to see why AD was so popular and useful, and why this approach to identity management worked for a number of years. But then, the IT infrastructure started to change and morph.

The Changing of the Guard

evolution of directory services

Mac® and Linux® machines started to infiltrate the once Windows dominated desktop and laptop market in the mid-2000s. Applications shifted to the web shortly thereafter. Server infrastructure started to be delivered by cloud providers such as AWS® and Google Cloud Platform. Core productivity applications jumped to the cloud with G Suite / Google Apps and Office 365. File servers went from being delivered by Microsoft to being from the cloud (Dropbox, Box, Google Drive) or on-prem with Samba files servers and NAS appliances. The network even shifted from wired connections to WiFi. In essence, users became more mobile and the popularity of Windows-based IT resources started to decline.

All of these changes have had a substantial impact on IT organizations. What used to be a more regimented architecture was now a wide variety of different platforms. Active Directory started to struggle, and IT organizations needed to add more identity management and systems management solutions to cover the gaps. So, quickly the question became, “What’s better than Active Directory for modern IT infrastructures?”

The answer is a new generation of cloud identity management platform, which is emerging to support modern IT organizations. This cloud directory solution is cross-platform, multi-protocol, provider independent, and location agnostic. In fact, you can think of it like Active Directory and LDAP reimagined for the modern age of IT. It’s called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

What’s Better than Active Directory? Directory-as-a-Service

Contact JumpCloud to learn more about the Directory-as-a-Service platform. You can also schedule a demo or sign up for a free account to see what’s better than Active Directory in action today. We offer ten free users to help you explore the full functionality of our platform at no cost.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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