Identity Management or Red Hat Directory Server – Which One Should I Use?

In the identity management server space Red Hat has two offerings: Identity Management (IdM) in Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Directory Server (RHDS). This article is dedicated to helping you understand why there are two solutions and how to chose the best one for your environment.

Before diving in too deep

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Direct, or Indirect, that is the Question…

In my last post I reviewed some of my observations from the RSA Security Conference. As mentioned, I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with conference attendees about Red Hat’s Identity Management (IdM) offerings. That said, I was quick to note that whether I’m out-and-about staffing an event or “back home” answering e-mails – one of the most frequently asked questions I receive goes something like this: “…I’m roughly familiar with both direct and indirect integration options… and I’ve read some of the respective ‘pros’ and ‘cons’… but I’m still not sure which approach to use… what should I do?” If you’ve ever asked a similar question – I have some good news – today’s post will help you to determine which option aligns best with your current (and future) needs.

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RSA Security Conference 2015 in Review: Three Observations

As many specialists in the security world know – the RSA Security Conference is one of the biggest security conferences in North America. This year it was once again held in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. Every year the conference gets bigger and bigger, bringing in more and more people and companies from all over the world.

If you attended – you may have noticed that Red Hat had a booth this year. Located in the corner of the main expo floor (not far from some of the “big guys” like: IBM, Microsoft, EMC, CA Technologies, and Oracle) we were in a great location – receiving no shortage of traffic.  In fact, despite staffing the booth with six Red Hatters we didn’t have any “down time” –  everyone seemed to be interested in what Red Hat has to offer in security.

Over the course of the conference I made a few interesting observations…

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SSSD vs Winbind

In a previous post, I compared the features and capabilities of Samba winbind and SSSD. In this post, I will focus on formulating a set of criteria for how to choose between SSSD and winbind. In general, my recommendation is to choose SSSD… but there are some notable exceptions.

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New SSSD Features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1

This post is dedicated to the new SSSD features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 that have significance when SSSD is used by itself (i.e. without IdM integration) – for example, when connecting directly to Active Directory (AD) or some other Directory Server.

Control Access to Linux Machines with Active Directory GPO

A common use case for managing computer-based access control in an Active Directory environment is through the use of GPO policy settings related to Windows Logon Rights. The Administrator who maintains a heterogeneous AD and Red Hat Enterprise Linux network without an IdM server has traditionally had to face the challenging task of centrally controlling access to the Linux machines without being able to update the SSSD configuration on each and every client machine.

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1, the Administrator is (now) able to

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Active Directory and Identity Management (IdM) Trusts – Exactly Where Are My Users?

As this is my sixth post on Identity Management I thought it would (first) be wise to explain (and link back to) my previous efforts.  My first post kicked off the series by outlining challenges associated with interoperability in the modern enterprise.  My second post explored  how the integration gap between Linux systems and Active Directory emerged, how it was formerly addressed, and what options are available now.  My third post outlined the set of criteria with which one is able to examine various integration options.  And my most recent entries, post four and five, reviewed options for direct and indirect integration, respectively.

Delving deeper into the world of indirect integration (i.e. utilizing a trust-based approach) – two of the biggest questions are often: “Where are my users?” and “Where does authentication actually happen?” As opposed to a solution that relies upon synchronization

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Overview of Indirect Active Directory Integration Using Identity Management (IdM)

The main alternative to direct integration of Linux/UNIX systems into Active Directory (AD) environments is the indirect approach – where Linux systems are first connected to a central server and this server is then somehow connected to AD. This approach is not new. Over the years many environments have deployed LDAP servers to manage their Linux/UNIX systems (using this LDAP server) while users were stored in AD. To reconcile this issue and to enable users from AD to access Linux systems – users and their passwords were routinely synchronized from AD. While this approach is viable – it’s also quite limited and prone to error. In addition, there is little value in having a separate LDAP server. The only reason for such a setup is to have a separation of duties between Linux and Windows administrators. The net result is that the overhead is quite high while the value of such an approach is quite low.

When IdM (Identity Management in Red Hat Enterprise Linux based on FreeIPA technology) emerged, many environments were either considering direct integration or were “in-process” with respect to adoption. How, exactly, does IdM work? IdM provides

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Overview of Direct Integration Options

As mentioned in my previous post there are multiple ways to connect a Linux system to Active Directory (AD) directly. With this in mind, let us review the following list of options…

  • The legacy integration option: this is a solution where (likely older) native Linux tools are used to connect to an LDAP server of your choice (e.g. AD).
  • The traditional integration option: this is a solution based on Samba winbind.
  • The third-party integration option: this is a solution based on (proprietary) commercial software.
  • The contemporary integration option: this is a solution based on SSSD.

Legacy Integration Option

In the case of the legacy integration option (see figure above), a Linux system is connected to AD using LDAP for identity lookup and LDAP or Kerberos for authentication. It pretty much solves the problem of basic user authentication. That said, such a solution has the following significant limitations:

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Aspects of Integration

In my previous post I reviewed the trends related to the integration of Linux systems into environments managed by Active Directory (AD). In this post I will review two integration options, namely: direct integration and indirect integration.

The direct option is, not surprisingly, when your systems are integrated into AD directly (i.e. your Linux systems communicate directly with AD), while the indirect option leverages an intermediary server (see figure below).

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