Amazon Web Services Fires Up Its New Directory Service, Taking Aim at the Enterprise – and Microsoft

Amy Larsen DeCarlo
Amy Larsen DeCarlo

Summary Bullets:

  • AWS’ new Directory Service promises central IT a single system to authenticate users to both cloud-based and on-premises applications.
  • By integrating its Directory Service with Microsoft Active Directory, AWS makes its authentication solution a practical unified option for some heavy users of its cloud, but it is unlikely to supplant Microsoft anytime soon and its pricing model is flawed.

In a bit of a role reversal, Amazon Web Services is taking a direct shot at rival Microsoft in its pursuit of corporate clients. AWS is hoping that its new Directory Service will sweeten the appeal of its cloud to IT executives who have been put off by the complexity of post-cloud migration application management challenges. Specifically, AWS is playing up the fact that by working with Microsoft Active Directory, the company can offer business and government customers a unified mechanism via its AD Connector to authenticate users, add or move computer systems, and facilitate connections to printers and other enterprise resources both in the cloud and on-premises. The solution looks like an elegant one, but a complex pricing model could throw a wrench in the works.

This integration promises to ease the administrative headaches associated with managing two disparate directories. At the same time, the cloud giant is hoping the new directory service increases its credibility with businesses that have previously looked at AWS EC2, S3, and other Amazon solutions as more appropriate for tactical use cases in areas such as test and development or to support increases in cyclical or seasonal capacity needs. AWS is trying to woo customers to use its cloud to support more broad-based, core enterprise applications. The AWS Directory Service can be used in conjunction with applications running in its cloud as well as to support directory services for applications running behind the customer’s firewall. AWS claims the solution is relatively straightforward to implement and user-friendly for the IT administrators who will need to interact with it.

The benefit of being able to manage directory services for applications running both in the cloud and outside of it in a consolidated fashion is clear. Not only could this approach improve administrative efficiency; it could also increase its effectiveness by facilitating more cohesive and secure access management.

That said, AWS appears to have stumbled in one area: pricing. AWS is applying the pay-per-use pricing model that it has made so popular with its IaaS solutions. As attractive as that scheme is for on-demand services, it may not translate as well for directory services where a monthly model might be easier for businesses to digest. Customers will pay by the hour, based on the size of their directories (small, up to 10,000 users; large, up to 100,000 users). To complicate things further, AWS’ pricing will vary by region.

What do you think of the new AWS directory? Will it help make AWS’ cloud a feasible option for more strategic use cases?

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