Best Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives

15+ Best Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives for Organizations

Brief: A list of 15+ active directory alternatives for organizations, prepared after doing a comprehensive research.

10 Best Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives

Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives: – If you are a Windows Operating System user, would you want anyone else to log in to your system apart from you? The answer will be No for all of us, Right?

The Active Directory is built exactly for the purpose to check whether the person logging into your system is a regular user or the system administrator.

Basically, it’s a way to protect your system from any unknown log-in attempts.

Here in this list post, you’ll find answers to queries such as:

  • What is Active Directory
  • Best Active Directory Alternatives
  • Free Active Directory Alternatives
  • Open Source Active Directory
  • Active Directory Linux Alternative
  • and many more…

Now Before any nonsense, here I’m providing what you are looking for i.e a complete table that contains services that are alternative to active directory.

You’ll get all the information about these directory services later in this post as this is an in-depth post, so without any further due, here’s a complete list of alternatives to active directory.

NoEquivalent Services
1Apache Directory Studio
2Open LDAP Admin
3Samba Active Directory
4389 Directory Server
5Univention Corporation Server (USC)
6Lepide Auditor
7MicroFocus eDirectory
14SME Server
15Resara Server
16Lotus Domino
17IBM Tivoli Directory Server
18Red Hat Directory Server
19Sun Java System Directory Server

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What is Microsoft Active Directory?

Now let me share more on the topic, simply skip this if you know about the topic…

Active Directory also known as AD is a Microsoft technology used to manage computers and other devices on a network.

It is a primary feature of Windows Server, an operating system that runs both local and Internet-based servers. Active Directory allows network administrators to create and manage domains, users, and objects within a network.


For example,

An admin can create a group of users and give them specific access privileges to certain directories on the server.

As a network grows, Active Directory provides a way to organize a large number of users into logical groups and subgroups, while providing access control at each level.

If a user tries to log-in to your Windows domain computer, Active Directory authenticates the password entered, identifies and differentiates between a system administrator and a regular user.

Active Directory is specially developed to read a large number of modifications and updates made to your computer.

However, there are quite a few third-party alternatives to Microsoft Active Directory nowadays that perform the same job while they offer a different kind of features.

Here, I have only provided little info about it as I assume that if you are here then you definitely know about it and if you don’t then consider watching pauls video tutorial that explains What is active directory?

So, let me break down the 10 Best Microsoft Active Directory alternatives that IT organizations can use. Later, few more alternatives to the active directory are mentioned. Make sure to check them out.

Please Note: The list provided below of Microsoft active directory alternatives is not arranged or ranked, I have simply listed the ad alternatives (earlier) that I know about and got better info about.

List of Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives with “Useful Info”

Here’s a list of 10 Best Microsoft Active Directory Alternatives with some useful info. Use the above-provided Table of content to directly jump to the Directory Service & Know More about it.

Before I start my list, here are some of the resources and FAQ related to Active Directory (Might be helpful for you)

Is Active Directory Free?

Active Directory is a useful & paid service but there are few services that offers it for free. Some provide Free trials so that organizations can test, before they make a deal.

So the conclusion is, every paid active directory services have free trial, and hence you can say active directory is free.

No doubt in the fact that everyone loves free stuff. But you need to figure out which is the best for your organization.

What technologies exist that are Alternatives to Active Directory?

Thankfully, many services exist that are very good alternatives to the active directory in which the popular are Apache Directory Studio, Open LDAP Admin, Samba Active Directory, 389 Directory Server, MicroFocus eDirectory, JXplorer, Zentyal, JumpCloud, and many more.

You can find many more in this list of 15+ Active directory alternatives…

Is there an Active Directory equivalent for Linux system?

Yes there are a few directory services for Linux. They are Samba, USC, FreeIPA, 389 Directory Server and few more that you’ll discover later in this post.

Apache Directory Studio

When it comes to active directory alternatives, Apache Directory Studio comes first in the mind. You may have seen this logo…


It’s an open-source software by the Apache Software Foundation, Apache Directory Studio offers a solution completely written in Java that includes the LDAP V3 certified directory server.

It is certified by the Open Group n 2006 and also by the Eclipse-based database utilities. Apart from LDAP, Apache Directory also supports other codes along with the Kerberos server.

Apache Directory Studio - Active Directory Alternative

The eclipse based directory tool, Apache Directory Studio added by a subproject includes a schema browser, DSML editor, LDAP editor/browser, LDIF editor, etc.

An eclipse RCP application, the Apache Directory is made of several plugins based on Eclipse that can be conveniently upgraded with additional options.

Apache Directory Studio Features:

  • Designed as an LDAP and X.500 platform; pluggable components and subsystems make ApacheDS extremely modular and ideal for experiments with various aspects of the LDAP protocol.
  • The server’s frontend is completely separable from its backend and vice-versa making it very flexible for implementing virtual directories, proxy servers, and gateways to X.500 directories.

  • Several backends can be implemented and plugged into the server’s partition nexus.
  • The server supports a BTree based partition out of the box but any backing store can be used to implement a partition as long as it conforms to interfaces.

  • The server exposes aspects of administration via a special system backend. LDAP can be used to manage these concerns through the system naming context at ou=system.
  • LDAP Stored Procedures and Triggers are scheduled for the next major version of ApacheDS.
  • LDAPv3 compatible certified by the OpenGroup

Open LDAP Admin

Open LDAP or LDAP Admin is a free and open-source application of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) designed by the OpenLDAP project.

Open LDAP Admin - Active Directory Alternative

It’s a Windows LDAP client and administration tool for LDAP database control.

One of the best alternatives to Microsoft Active Directory that is present for the administrator, Open LDAP lets you browse, lookup, change, create and remove items on the LDAP server.

OpenLDAP supports LDAPv3 which provides support for Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL), and Transport Layer Security (TLS). OpenLDAP also supports IPv6.


OpenLDAP provides more security through inter-process communication (IPC) instead of communicating over the network.

OpenLDAP Features:

  • LDAPv3 Support: support for Simple Authentication and Security Layer and Transport Layer Security.
  • OpenLDAP supports the next-generation Internet Protocol version 6.

  • DIFv1 Support: Provides full compliance with the LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) & Enhanced Stand-Alone LDAP Server
  • Browsing and editing of LDAP directories, Recursive operations on directory trees (copy, move and delete)

  • Modify operations on datasets, Binary attribute support
  • Schema browsing, Renaming of LDAP Entries, LDIF export, and import
  • Password management, Management of Posix Groups and Accounts

Samba Active Directory

Samba is an open-source and free CIFS implementation that runs on Unix platforms and works towards a harmonious coexistence of Unix and Windows.

It is a powerful and versatile server application…

Samba is an important component to seamlessly integrate Linux/Unix Servers and Desktops into Active Directory environments.

It can function both as a domain controller or as a regular domain member.


It’s a software package that gives network administrators flexibility and freedom in terms of setup, configuration, and choice of systems and equipment. 

While it runs on Unix, it speaks to the Windows clients in a way as if it belongs to them.

It lets Unix shift to a Windows Network Neighborhood without any fuss, followed by which Windows users can access the print and file services effortlessly, without knowing or bothering the benefits offered are by the Unix system.

Samba - Active_Directory

This project is able to manage all this through a code of conduct currently called as CIFS or “Common Internet File System”.

Samba has been moved over to different non-Unix hosts such as NetWare, AmigaOS, and VMS.

Exclusive file server programs also support CIFS via several different vendors which make it available almost everywhere.

What Samba can do aka Features:

  • Serve directory trees and printers to Linux, UNIX, and Windows clients
  • Assist in network browsing (with or without NetBIOS)
  • Authenticate Windows domain logins

  • Provide Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) name server resolution
  • Act as a Windows NT®-style Primary Domain Controller (PDC)

  • Act as a Backup Domain Controller (BDC) for a Samba-based PDC
  • Act as an Active Directory domain member server
  • Join a Windows NT/2000/2003 PDC

389 Directory Server


389 Directory Server is a fully-featured business-class open-source active directory and free LDAP server for the Linux platform that makes it a great active directory Linux alternative.

If you were looking for a free active directory service then this one is for you. It is available to download for free and can be assembled within an hour with the help of the graphical interface.

The LDAP server is high performing that can manage innumerable operations per second and over tens of thousands of parallel users.

389 Directory Server - Active Directory Alternative

It boasts of an extensive directory that is limited only by disk space, that offers high performance, convenience to expand and multi-mater repetition, the 389 Directory Server can fulfill paramount demands.

389 DS Features:

  • Online, zero downtime, LDAP-based update of schema, configuration, and management including Access Control Information (ACIs)
  • Asynchronous Multi-Master Replication, to provide fault tolerance and high write performance

  • The codebase has been deployed continuously for more than a decade by sites around the world
  • Extensive documentation, LDAPv3 compliant server
  • Secure authentication and transport (TLS, and SASL)

Univention Corporation Server (USC)

UCS is an innovative basis for the cost-efficient operation and easy administration of server applications and entire IT infrastructures.

It is optimally suited to the management of distributed heterogeneous and virtualized IT environments, regardless of whether you employ Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux systems.

USC - Active Directory Alternative

This server operating system is adopted from Debian GNU/Linux with a combined management system for the central and multi-platform control of servers, clients, desktops, users, and services including the transitive machines operated in the UCS.

UCS comes in two editions: Core and Enterprise. The Core Edition is available for free!

It has the same features as the Enterprise Edition but comes without support and a limited maintenance period. Help is provided via the forum at Univention Help.

Since USC upgraded to Version 3.0, it also started supporting functions offered by Microsoft Active Directory for the administration of machines controlled with Microsoft Windows with the help of assimilation of Samba 4 (listed above).

It is perfectly suited to the administration of IT infrastructures of all shapes and sizes, from small companies with just a few employees right up to organizations with several million users.

Some of the Features of USC:

  • Individually configurable online portal for administrators and users
  • Active Directory Connection & Active Directory Migration
  • Scaling and Virtualization
  • Easy and centralized administration of domains with UCS

Lepide Auditor for Active Directory

Lepide Auditor for Active Directory

Control Active Directory changes using this powerful software called Lepide Auditor for Active Directory.

It was specifically designed to offer a tool to manage the directory changes.

Lepide Auditor for Active Directory lets you quickly view who made the changes, what changes, when, and where. It can trail both modifications and unravel the ones that are undesirable.

The best part is that it also lets system audits even where audit logs are not present.

LepideAuditor offers a 360º Radar Tab, that allows you to monitor your whole Active Directory environment changes.

Instantly see a summary of the total number of changes per administrator, per source, and even by the trend to help you identify change/event anomalies.

Lepide Auditor for Active Directory - Dashboard
Source: Lepide

Among its other features are, control panel for all audited systems, customizable control panel views, build up all audit logs to one central location, creating a business view instantly for who is making modifications and what’s being modified and more.

It also notifies you whenever it detects any critical changes.

Features of Lepide Auditor:

  • Monitor AD Changes with an Intuitive Dashboard
  • Detect and React to Insider Threats
  • Easily Meet Compliance Demands
  • Real-Time Alerts on Critical AD Changes
  • Rollback Unwanted Active Directory Changes
  • Granular Audit Reports for Active Directory Changes

MicroFocus eDirectory

(Earlier Novell’s eDirectory) MicroFocus eDirectory is one of the primary Microsoft Active Directory alternatives. Novell is now part of MicroFocus!

MicroFocus eDirectory provides infrastructure, centralized identity management, enterprise-wide security, and scalability to various applications working behind and beyond the enterprise firewall.

MicroFocus eDirectory - Active Directory Alternative

MicroFocus eDirectory is a member of the Micro Focus Compliance Management Platform.

The Micro Focus compliance management platform provides business process automation that guarantees users access to appropriate resources, approved in real-time to ensure compliance with enterprise guidelines.

It is an adaptation of Novell’s original project called a network operating system directory which was set up to support the Netware environment of the brand.

It then eventually evolved into a high-performance and mission-critical element to aid the developing role of the directory services in IT.

Micro Focus eDirectory™ is a secure LDAP certified directory service that provides excellent scalability and a flexible platform to manage your enterprise identity architecture and multi-platform system services.

It’s is one of the highly used directories that boasts over 30K customers and the majority of the Fortune 1000+ organizations already using this Microsoft active directory alternative – MicroFocus eDirectory!

Features of MicroFocus eDirectory:

  • Application Management, Website Management
  • Dues Management, Event Management, Committee Management
  • Member Types, Automatic Renewals
  • Email Marketing, Payment Processing
  • Member Database, Member Portal
  • Simple and classy design, Intuitive and easy to browse
  • Flexible and personalized, Compliant With LDAP


JXplorer is a cross-platform LDAP browser and editor.

It is a standards-compliant general purpose LDAP client that can be used to read, search, and edit any standard LDAP directory or any directory service with an LDAP or DSML interface.

JXplorer is written in java, and the source code and Ant build system are available via svn or as a packaged build for users who want to experiment, analyze, or further develop the program.

Jxplorer is highly flexible and can be extended and customized in a number of ways.

Jxplorer - Active Directory Alternative

JX is available in two versions; the free open source version under an OSI Apache 2 style license, or in the JXWorkBench Enterprise bundle with built-in reporting, administrative, and security tools.

As it provides a number of features, it’s listed on our best Microsoft active directory alternatives!

JXplorer is a fully functional LDAP client with advanced security integration and support for the more difficult and obscure parts of the LDAP protocol.

It has been tested on Windows, Solaris, Linux, and OSX, packages are available for HPUX, AIX, BSD and it should run on any java supporting operating system.

JXplorer Features:

  • LDAP Add/Delete/Copy/Modify
  • Drag-n-drop editing, Complex searching
  • SASL Authentication
  • UI for search filter construction
  • SSL/TLS support, Full i18n support
  • Schema support, Paged results
  • UTF8 allowed in DNS
  • Extensive Help System
  • Multiple Browser Windows
  • Binary Attributes, Certificate Keystore LDIF import/export
  • Offline LDIF file editing
  • DSML support
  • Themes / Skinning
  • Configurable HTML templates/forms
  • Pluggable Editors, Pluggable Security Providers


Zentyal offers an easy to use Windows Server® alternative.

It comes with native compatibility with Microsoft Active Directory® allowing you to join Windows® clients to the domain and manage them easily, causing no disruption to your users.

You can manage your IT framework from a sole point of user management, despite the various offices and locales.

Additionally, it includes the industry-standard SMTP and POP3/IMAP mail servers built upon the most established technologies and protocols.

Zentyal - Active Directory Alternative

Some of the Features Zentyal Offers:

  • Central domain and directory management
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) authentication
  • Users, Security groups, Distribution lists, Contacts
  • File sharing in Windows® environments (CIFS)

  • Multiple Organization Units (OUs), Group Policy Objects (GPOs)
  • Users and Groups access and modification permissions (ACLs)
  • NETLOGON scripts, Roaming profiles
  • Supported OS: Windows® XP/Vista/7/8/10

  • Importing/exporting of users and groups
  • Management of user profile pictures
  • Audit mode on/off (file server)
  • Integrated software: Samba


JumpCloud, the first Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS), is Active Directory and LDAP reimagined.

It securely manages and connects employee identities to IT resources including devices, applications, storage file servers, and networks.

JumpCloud is a central source of authentication, authorization, and management of employees and all to which they require access.

It is your only next-gen directory services. A cloud-based alternative to Microsoft Active Directory.

JumpCloud - Active Directory Alternative

It offers features such as LDAP Services, Linux Management, Mac Apps & Mac Management, Single Sign-On, Security, Radium Services, and many more.

List of Other Similar Alternatives to Active Directory

Above, I have listed the 10 Best alternatives to Microsoft active directory, but the good news is, there are many more Microsoft active directory alternatives available on the Internet. Just to save your time, I haven’t provided any info about these services as the name is enough. If you need more info, simply google it.

Anyways, here goes my list…

1. FreeIPA

2. Gosa

3. OpenSSO

4. SME Server

5. Resara Server

6. Lotus Domino

7. IBM Tivoli Directory Server

8. Red Hat Directory Server

9. Sun Java System Directory Server


I have also mentioned it at the beginning of the post and also reminding you at the end that the list provided above of Microsoft active directory alternatives is not arranged or ranked, I have simply listed the ad alternatives (earlier) that I know about and got better info about.

Also, this above list of active directory alternatives was prepared by doing comprehensive research and also I have taken reference from other sites, just to provide the best info here at TechStudio.

Now, it’s up to your requirements and budget of your organization. Just a piece of advice – Choose wisely!

Here, you can check out more useful guides and resources

Here are a few How-to Guides

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