One of the major challenges that any provider of cloud services faces in the enterprise is the dependency most organizations have on Microsoft Active Directory (AD). For more than 20 years, IT organizations have relied on Microsoft AD for almost every aspect of how they manage access to applications. Any effort to get those organizations to move wholeheartedly to the cloud requires providing some level of equivalent functionality.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) came to that realization this week with the unfurling of an AWS Directory Service in the cloud that is compatible with Microsoft AD. Using an AD Connector gateway enables IT organization to synchronize their Microsoft AD instance on premise with the AWS instance to federate, for example, single sign-on capabilities between the two environments.
Microsoft, of course, also provides access to Microsoft AD functionality in its Azure cloud. In fact, just this week Microsoft touted the fact that of all the major cloud service providers it’s the only way capable of supporting a truly hybrid cloud computing environment up and down the entire enterprise application stack.
But AWS and Microsoft are not the only way to go about solving the Microsoft AD challenge in the cloud. JumpCloud, for example, has created a namesake directory-as-a-service in the cloud that is compatible with Microsoft AD. In that instance, a cloud service provider only needs to invoke the JumpCloud service to give customers access to a directory through which they can govern a hybrid cloud environment.
Another similar option would be to deploy an instance of the directory that Centrify created on the Microsoft Azure cloud that is compatible with Microsoft AD. In that instance, an IT service provider winds up deploying a directory that has already been proven in enterprise IT environments on the Microsoft cloud where many Windows applications are likely to reside.
Finally, another option IT services providers have would be to take a directory built on top of Debian Linux that is compatible with Microsoft AD and deploy it in a cloud. Developed by Univention GmbH, the Univention Corporate Server creates a set of directory services that can also be used to manage instances of Microsoft AD running on premise to create a federated cloud computing environment.
In terms of things that internal IT organizations struggle to manage, Microsoft AD is almost always among the most challenging. And yet, the dependency they have on Microsoft AD is one of the reasons IT organizations don’t move more of their existing enterprise applications into the cloud. The opportunity for IT services providers is to take advantage of any number of Microsoft AD options in the cloud to overcome those objections.
Of course, there are any number of other options when it comes to deploying a directory in the cloud that are not compatible with Microsoft AD. Many of these options have gained favor with cloud service providers because they are not as expensive or as complex to manage as Microsoft AD. But for a lot of enterprise IT organizations, any conversation about the cloud that doesn’t include Microsoft AD is not going to go nearly as far as it otherwise might.