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The Truth About Most Active Directory Extensions, Add-Ons, & Identity Bridges


Now that many business-critical operations have migrated to the cloud and Mac® and Linux® systems are common in the workplace, a relatively new category of IT solution has emerged out of necessity. Active Directory® (AD) extensions, sometimes referred to as AD add-ons or identity bridges, do the work of connecting Active Directory identities to cloud infrastructure, SaaS apps, networks, non-Windows® systems, and/or other modern IT resources that AD struggles to support. 

Many organizations actually use multiple solutions in tandem to connect different individual resources back to AD. Ideally, the right combination would replicate the secure, centralized identity management experience once afforded by the on-prem Windows Server® domain. 

Common Types of AD Extensions 

Some of the IT solutions we think of as AD extensions include:

  • SSO providers 
  • Mac system management suites 
  • G Suite™ and Office 365™ integrations
  • User management solutions for AWS® and other cloud infrastructure platforms 
  • Remote employee management software
  • Password and SSH key management tools 
  • Products that automate user provisioning and access control 
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA), full disk encryption, and other security tools
  • System reporting apps for troubleshooting, security, and compliance 

With modern environments that require most or all of the above services, the process of adopting and configuring the right AD extensions can get complicated quickly. 

The Problem: Comparing One AD Identity Bridge to Another 

For organizations trying to choose between AD extension products, the problem is that these solutions rarely — if ever — actually offer comparable functionality. Some were built to handle SSO elegantly, but can’t pull off GPO-like system management for Mac, Windows, and Linux machines. Some keep cloud infrastructure access neatly in order, but do nothing for the rest of your environment. Still others work pretty well if you intend to stay a Windows-centric shop forever, but wouldn’t it be nice to control those rogue MacBooks® on the graphic design team with the same product that locks the USB ports on your ThinkPads®

One-Way vs. Two-Way Syncing

Usually, when people talk about extending AD identities, they’re talking about a one-way sync between (Read more…)



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