Taking Aim at Active Directory on High in the Cloud

Michael Vizard

While identity management in the cloud is still in its relative infancy, that doesn’t stop the service providers such as Okta from dreaming big.

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon says he sees a day coming when identity management services essentially eliminate the need for on-premise deployments of Active Directory. Outside of large enterprise organizations it doesn’t make much sense for every company to have its own Active Directory deployment when they could just as easily use a service, says McKinnon.

Of course, that’s a little easier said than done. Like most providers of identity management services in the cloud, Okta offers support for a limited range of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, the latest of which is the human resources application from Workday. That service can also be customized.

Providing identity management services for SaaS applications via the cloud only makes sense. As applications that are already deployed in the cloud, Microsoft Active Directory in its current form isn’t really a viable mechanism for managing cloud applications. But you can be certain that none of this conversation is lost on Microsoft, which is hard at work coming up with an implementation of Active Directory that is delivered as part of its Azure cloud service because, after all, Active Directory is still one of Microsoft’s most valuable, yet underappreciated, assets in the enterprise.

In essence, McKinnon says that when it comes to identity in the enterprise, Active Directory is the system of record. Whether that stands the test of time in the era of the cloud remains to be seen. Okta is not the only company gunning for Active Directory via the cloud. But as a core element of the Microsoft Windows stack in the enterprise, it’s not likely that Microsoft will stand idly by while others move to essentially try and make Active Directory in its current form obsolete.

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