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Directory-as-a-Service lets you extend Active Directory to all those items AD can't support

John Dix | Jan. 6, 2015
JumpCloud's cloud-based alternative to Active Directory adds support for Macs, tablets, Linux servers and smartphones. A Q&A with JumpCloud CEO Rajat Bhargava.

Startup JumpCloud was making waves with its server management tools when it occurred to them what they really had was a cloud-based alternative to Active Directory that could address all those resources AD can't reach -- like Macs, tablets, Linux servers and smartphones. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with JumpCloud CEO Rajat Bhargava to learn about the effort.

You recently repositioned your product to offer a cloud-based directory service. Tell us how that came about.

There were two core components to our product. One was server user management, basically controlling who can access servers and how and when, and all that stuff. The second was for server orchestration, which is basically executing tasks on servers. Over the summer some customers and prospects said, "If you look at this 15 degrees differently, you're actually solving a really interesting problem. You guys have created a system that for servers today, can authenticate, authorize and manage those devices. And if you take those three words -- authenticate, authorize and manage -- that's what Active Directory does. So If you were able to solve that for desktops and for Macs and started being more cross-platform and put it in the cloud, you've come up with a next generation, cloud-based alternative to Active Directory."

So we thought

that was really interesting. We didn't set out to do that, but we can understand how people may want that. So we dug in over the summer and started researching who was doing a cloud-based directory.   But we couldn't find anybody positioning themselves as a Directory-as-a-Service or a cloud-based directory, so that's when we started getting really interested.

Obviously there's this fear that, if no one is doing it, why aren't they doing it? It seems sort of obvious. And we kept asking every VC and every analyst we could find, "Why aren't people doing this?" As far as we can tell, basically Microsoft had a stranglehold on enterprise networks and only in the last two, three, four, five years did that change. Mac devices are much more prevalent, you've got Gmail intruding on Exchange, you've got AWS taking all these servers out to the cloud, and it's more Linux based than it is Windows based.

So we think it is really sort of a timing thing. If you would have started a cloud-based directory four or five years ago, you would have run straight into Active Directory and there would be no real reason to change. But today there are so many components of an IT infrastructure that need to be connected to a directory, that it presents an interesting opportunity. We launched that positioning in late September and the difference in term of uptake and understanding of what we were doing was immediate.


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