The Battle of Directory Services vs SSO

Directory services vs SSO

The identity management space is getting more complex, but in doing so, more interesting. It used to be that everything was based off of the core identity provider, Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD or MAD). Today, though, a new generation of identity access management, or IAM, solutions is creating the perception that the IT market is now a battle of directory services vs SSO (single sign-on). What does this battle mean for IT organizations?

Before we talk about whether there is competition between directory services and SSO, we should explain each category.

Directory Services


A directory service is essentially a database that stores core user identities, and provides users with access to the IT resources necessary to do their jobs. IT admins can also manage which users have access to various IT resources via the directory services platform. Historically, these IT resources have been almost strictly limited to Windows®-based systems, applications, files, and networks. This is primarily because the directory services space has been dominated over the last twenty years by Microsoft Active Directory. However, as IT infrastructure has shifted to the cloud, a new generation of IAM solutions have appeared.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Web applications emerged in the mid-2000s as an alternative to many of the on-prem applications provided by Microsoft. While they offered a number of advantages, they were also difficult to manage with AD. That’s when a new generation of IAM solutions was created to help. Known as web application single sign-on (SSO) solutions, these platforms are connecting users to their web applications. The challenge with a majority of SSO platforms is that they have not eliminated the need for directory services, but rather built to work in partnership with them. It’s fairly common for IT admins to view the two as competitors, but this just isn’t the case.

Is it Really Directory Services vs SSO, Then?

directory services vs SSO

Today, with even more IT resources moving to the cloud and the increase in use of non-Windows platforms, there is even more pressure on traditional directory services. AD, which has been the gold standard of directory (Read more...)

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Blog – JumpCloud authored by Zach DeMeyer. Read the original post at:

Zach DeMeyer

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a writer and researcher for JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, making music, and soccer.

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