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Universal Directory vs Azure Active Directory


By Kayla Coco-Stotts Posted January 5, 2020

In the battle for modern directory services, are Okta®’s Universal Directory (UD) and Microsoft®’s Azure® Active Directory® (AAD or Azure AD) worth considering? For most, though, UD and AAD aren’t used as the replacement to a true directory service, like Microsoft Active Directory. Regardless, given the activity in the identity and access management (IAM) space, it is worth understanding the comparison between Universal Directory vs Azure Active Directory.

UD and Azure AD weren’t intended as replacements for an organization’s on-prem AD, but rather a complement to the identity provider. Both cloud identity management services allow admins to extend AD identities to web applications through single sign-on (SSO). Below, we’ll compare features of both UD and Azure AD. We’ll also detail the components that define a service as a modern, cloud-based directory.

Universal Directory vs Azure Active Directory

Okta introduced Universal Directory as a way to build upon their established foundation of web application single sign-on services. Over time, Okta extended UD to serve as a repository for user information from a variety of sources, so that UD acts as the subsequent authority for a user’s data attributes. It’s also a core underlying feature for admins looking to leverage Okta’s SSO capabilities.

Azure AD is a cloud-based user management solution for Azure and Office 365™. Beyond Azure/O365 management, Microsoft also created it to provide IT admins with web application SSO from the cloud. Azure AD is designed to work as an extension of Active Directory, connecting users to various web applications, Azure infrastructure, and Office 365. In order to bridge on-prem AD to Azure AD, a component called Azure Active Directory Connect is required and then subsequently if Azure resources are needed to be accessed, Azure AD Domain Services is required as well.

Like Okta, Azure AD is a great resource for admins looking to extend user credentials to web applications, but it isn’t generally considered a standalone solution. As a result, IT departments layer Azure AD on top of their existing AD and associated connective technology described (Read more…)



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