As more IT organizations shift their identity management infrastructure to the cloud, the competition for SaaS identity management solutions is intensifying. In the web application single sign-on (SSO) landscape, it is often Azure® Active Directory® versus Okta®. In fact, Microsoft® and Okta have a bit of history with each other, with strong words and accusations going back and forth over the years. Interestingly, while both compete in the Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) market, they also both heavily rely on Microsoft Active Directory to function at a high-level.
While they may be competitors where they overlap in SSO, they diverge down different paths beyond this similarity. After the head-to-head competition in web application single sign-on, they are separate tools that serve different needs for IT administrators. Today, we will compare Azure AD to Okta and explore where their competition lies.
Azure AD: Think Active Directory Partner, Not Replacement
Many IT organizations are initially confused by their similar names and believe that Azure Active Directory is the cloud-based directory services replacement for Active Directory, but this is not the case. Active Directory is still hosted on-premises, while Azure AD is designed to be the cloud-based counterpart for Azure infrastructure in the cloud. This is demonstrated by the fact that Azure AD doesn’t have the capability to authenticate users to on-prem or remote systems including Windows® (sans Windows 10), Mac® and Linux® machines, cloud infrastructure hosted at AWS® or GCP™ (Google Cloud Platform), network access, on-prem file servers, and generally anything else that operates outside of the Microsoft Azure ecosystem (outside of web apps).
The primary role for Azure AD is to be the user authentication infrastructure for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service that competes with AWS and GCP, and a web single sign-on solution. It is highly tailored for Windows servers and Windows-based infrastructures hosted in Azure, with Microsoft’s goal to shift their customer’s infrastructure from on-prem into their data center (Azure). This means that, while Azure Active Directory may be a significant stride towards a cloud-based (Read more…)