Active Directory (AD) is a Windows directory service containing information about users, computers, printers, files, and folders in an organization's network. Its domain controllers proceed with authentication requests and authorize access to network resources using the access control lists.
Active Directory is used in different environments, from startups to enterprises. It helps to manage and organize resources and network-related objects.
What is Active Directory integration?
Active Directory integration connects and synchronizes a system or application with Microsoft's Active Directory.
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is an open-source and cross-platform protocol created to make managing and accessing directory services more efficient. It offers a streamlined approach to interacting with directory services. LDAP defines precise structures, formats, and communication rules, governing how client applications connect with directory services and manage client requests, server responses, and data formats.
LDAP allows admins to find users within a directory to add, modify, or delete objects. Its applications extend to user authentication for network resource access and beyond. The most prominent directory services like Active Directory, OpenLDAP, and IBM Directory Server seamlessly incorporate LDAP.
LDAP plays a pivotal role in expanding the infrastructure of its versatility across platforms and operating systems. Implementing LDAP bridges the gap between various directory services. We are talking here about Linux integration with Active Directory and Windows desktop, SaaS applications, or database apps. By doing so, organizations easily navigate the numbers of users, devices, and resources stored within Active Directory.
Single Sign-On (SSO)
During the day, one person in the organization accesses many cloud-based and on-premise applications. The Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions have revolutionized this experience, allowing users to log in effortlessly to multiple applications with a single set of credentials. This approach wipes out the challenges and vulnerabilities of juggling diverse combinations of usernames and passwords.
Establishing seamless Single Sign-On with Active Directory is possible by leveraging ADFS or opting for a third-party tool. Irrespective of the chosen path, it's crucial to keep in mind some hurdles that may arise.
The charm of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) as a cost-free solution is undeniable, but its implementation demands a significant investment of time and resources for management and administration. The establishment of the required infrastructure often brings to light hidden expenses. These could manifest as a Windows Server license procurement and the complex configuration of servers dedicated to hosting ADFS services.
Moreover, the journey toward a complete SSO solution requires the development of tailored customizations. Specifically, this involves generating claims for each application or database for integration with AD while saving the continuity of SSO connections.
Many databases equip themselves with dedicated integration tools and APIs to facilitate seamless interaction with Active Directory. An excellent example is Oracle, which furnishes configuration utilities like Oracle Net Configuration Assistant and Database Configuration Assistant. These tools empower Windows users, authenticated through AD, to directly access the Oracle database without re-entering login credentials.
Yet, most of these tools only enable one-to-one integration between a specific database and Active Directory. Administrators must replicate this process for each additional resource they wish to integrate.
Undertaking the Single Sign-On within Active Directory introduces some level of complexity. For navigating it, third-party solutions appear helpful. They streamline the process through the Active Directory's reach to encompass multiple SaaS applications and databases in the cloud.
One-Way AD Integration and IDaaS
Active Directory integrations might follow a unidirectional pattern. AD is the authoritative source in this situation, and a third-party application authenticates user access through AD. This has been the conventional understanding of AD network integration within the IT industry. The traditional on-premises software incorporates this functionality. The notion changes when it comes to modern IT resources; the concept of AD integration takes a back seat.
A new generation of Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions has emerged. They are known as Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) or web application Single Sign-On (SSO). They expand the reach of Active Directory credentials beyond the original boundaries, extending them to third-party platforms, primarily web applications. The term Active Directory integration assumes an altered significance and context. Nevertheless, challenges remain in these constrained AD integrations. They encourage the rise of a novel approach to AD integration and encompass bidirectional synchronization capabilities.
Bidirectionality involves synchronizing password changes made on the integrated system with corresponding changes in AD.
A modern IDaaS platform can reposition the central point (the "source of truth") to itself while preserving an organization's investment in AD. The natural value lies in augmenting and expanding the IAM infrastructure without consolidation, migration, or intricate integration efforts. This strategy empowers teams to harness the full potential of modern IT resources while IT admins retain control over their environments.
This control extends to the capacity to seamlessly integrate AD with non-Windows systems, further enhancing the flexibility and adaptability of the overall setup.
Mac and Linux integration with AD
In the modern computing landscape, one of the particularly beneficial aspects of integrating Active Directory (AD) for organizations is the seamless inclusion of macOS and Linux devices within AD-controlled environments. The growing presence of Mac systems across global office spaces emphasizes the significance of this capability. It is a channel for synchronizing password modifications between non-Windows platforms and AD, facilitating a mutual exchange that proves exceptionally beneficial for end-users and IT administrators.
This competence is pivotal for IT administrators. Existing solutions within this domain mainly originate from legacy on-premises frameworks. The demand for a next-generation cloud-based system is pressing; its relevance is more apparent than ever. Many IT administrators are looking for ways to achieve robust Mac user management capabilities.
For this audience, the integration of JumpCloud's AD Sync Password Writeback feature is an invaluable augmentation to their IT toolkit. Furthermore, the utilization of JumpCloud extends beyond this. It provides the ability to merge with an expansive array of cloud-based and on-premises tools, enriching an organization's technological arsenal.
Its role in the infrastructure
Active Directory is the umbrella term that covers the collection of services presented by Microsoft after the AD release. They include DomainServices, Certificate Services, Rights Management Services, and Lightweight Directory Services. Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) deserves extra attention. Designed to enable Single Sign-On (SSO) via a claims-based authentication mechanism, it allows authenticating users to out-of-network resources.
To this day, around 29% of organizations use ADFS. 21% of those companies are small (up to 50 employees), 47% are medium-sized, and 33% are big (over 1000 employees). With expanding the infrastructure, organizations rely increasingly on Active Directory for authentication against other databases and servers.
How does Active Directory integration work?
AD integration is a process of connecting and synchronizing external systems and services and Active Directory service. It typically includes the following points.
Authentication and authorization
The external app's system communicates with the AD to authenticate users and authorize their access relying on their credentials in Active Directory.
The information about a user and their data from the external system synchronizes with the AD database. It includes usernames, passwords, email addresses, roles, and group memberships status.
After their integration, users get access to the external system with the Active Directory credentials. They don't need to create and separate usernames and passwords, memorize them, and struggle with every single login. They get a seamless experience with the service and don't mess with credentials.
As soon as a new user appears in the system, their profile emerges in Active Directory. Created automatically, it includes personal information and access data. The latter modifications apply automatically every time their status in the organization changes.
Role-based access control
Within Active Directory, users are assigned to different roles within different groups. According to this group membership, they get permission to access those integrated systems they need in their work.
If the user changes their password in Active Directory synchronized with the integrated systems, they can access these systems with a new password without changing it manually. It ensures consistency and removes the need to repeat the process in different services separately.
Login and activity audit
This mechanism allows administrators to monitor user activities across different integrated systems, assisting in compliance and security assessments. They can use the collected data to run regular audits and make improvements.
Administrators map attributes between the integrated system and Active Directory to ensure that data, such as roles or email addresses, is correctly aligned.
Different protocols can achieve integration. Among them are LDAP, Kerberos, SAML, and others. The decision of which one to opt for depends on the integrated system's nature and compatibility with Active Directory.
Monitoring and maintenance
Maintenance is required to synchronize user data, update mappings when necessary, and monitor performance and security.
Advantages of Active Directory integration
The integration is vital for those companies that operate and rely on clear and accurate user data. The integration reduces security threats while allowing teams to match with essential IT resources. The most prominent benefits of AD integration are the following:
Active Directory allows administrators to control user access, computers, and resources. They can create, modify, or deactivate user accounts remotely, deploy software, configure numerous computers simultaneously, and troubleshoot computers with remote access. Moreover, they can rapidly and easily manage files, apps, and hardware using AD Domain Services.
Integration with other Microsoft services
Microsoft developed Active Directory for its Windows infrastructure. That is why it integrates seamlessly with the OS and Microsoft services such as Exchange Server, SharePoint, and Office Communications Server. You can also easily combine AD with Azure Active Directory integration to ensure seamless management, desktop access, and cloud-based Microsoft products.
Group Policies Objects (GPO)
GPOs are a set of commands that define the system's behavior and appearance. It's a compelling feature of Active Directory. With GROs, admins can set rules defining what all or separate users and computers can or can't do.
Typically, admins use GPOs to install software updates, set desktop appearance, prevent the installation of unauthorized software, and limit access to resources and specific system settings.
Security and Access Control
Admins set network-wide security policies from Active Directory. They define password complexity requirements, account lockouts, and password expiration policies.
AD also utilizes secure authentication and authorization protocols such as Kerberos and LDAP. The domain controller uses them to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive resources and ensures that only authenticated and authorized users can get access to resources.
The most enjoyable part for users is that they can access particular services on any device. They only need to log in once using their Active Directory credentials to start operating multiple resources on the network. There's no need to memorize numerous usernames and passwords.
Speaking of admins, they enjoy their widespread control through the centralized system. They don't need to go into each computer to carry out tasks manually; the work can be done remotely and simultaneously on various computers.
Reporting for auditing and compliance
By securing identities and controlling access to data, Active Directory plays an essential role in achieving data compliance. Moreover, with third-party tools, it is possible to generate reports of logging in or out, file creation, modifications, permission grants, and other activities and use them for audit purposes.
Integrate Active Directory with any database or SSO
Integrating Active Directory with databases or Single Sign-On systems involves configuring settings and protocols for seamless connections. For integrating with a database, choose methods like LDAP or vendor-specific tools. Configure the database to authenticate users through Active Directory, map attributes, and validate the functionality.
For SSO integration, define a protocol and configure your Active Directory server as an Identity Provider. Set up the SSO provider to trust Active Directory, configure target applications for SSO, map user attributes, and test the integration.
Successful application integration with Active Directory improves user management and access control and enhances system efficiency. From a single control computer, admins can onboard or off-board users, assign and modify role-based access, and audit all user activities.
Different companies have different organizational structures. The most common approach is grouping roles, responsibilities, and assets into various departments. Depending on their roles, employers use the company's devices and software to be the most productive and achieve their goals. To make these processes efficient and secure, it's essential to have access control.
This is how the directory services appeared. The Microsoft Active Directory service is the most commonly used in modern enterprises. Thanks to its functionality, all this data about users, applications, and resources is recorded in a central repository and uses authentication and authorization to ensure security and efficient maintenance and management.
Active Directory integration with Blackthorn Vision
Directory services are an essential piece of enterprise databases. They help create a centralized hub where all employees can store the information and access different resources with one set of credentials. Companies can grant or limit access to these resources by relying on data about the roles and groups.
If it sounds like what your organization needs, contact us, and we will help you with the integration of Active Directory. We provide constant maintenance and monitoring, so you don't have to worry about security and management gaps. With Active Directory, you invest in your organization's smooth work and secure data operation.