One of the biggest things that keeps applications tethered to on-premise systems is their dependency on Microsoft (MSFT) Active Directory for authentication services. As long as there is no equivalent capability in the cloud, most IT organizations are not going to move the bulk of their applications off of existing servers.

To address that specific issue JumpCloud unveiled a namesake directory-as-a-service offering that provides compatibility with both Active Directory and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

JumpCloud CEO Rajat Bhargava said although single sign-on capabilities have been available via the cloud for years, IT organizations have held on to Microsoft Active Directory running on premise as a means to manage applications, devices and users. Without that capability in the cloud, there’s no way to simply manage applications and devices at scale.

The service, priced starting at $10 per user per month, marks the first time solution providers have a way to effectively manage existing customer applications once they are moved to the cloud, Bhargava said. In addition, agent software developed by JumpCloud removes the last major technical barrier to migrating applications into the cloud, he noted.

Microsoft, of course, has been counting on the Active Directory capabilities it makes available via Microsoft Azure to ensure that most Windows applications moving to the cloud would wind up on its platform. But if a third-party service provides Microsoft Active Directory capabilities, the Windows application field suddenly looks a lot more level. Windows applications, for example, would move into the cloud and make use of the JumpCloud DaaS to provide directory services.

The degree to which existing Windows applications would move to the cloud has always been an object of conjecture. For the most part, most IT organizations have not made a massive shift. But with most of the technical hurdles being addressed, it is fair to say applications that are used by less than half the organization are fair candidates for the cloud. In addition, many organizations simply prefer to treat IT as an operating expense. In the name of the flexibility such an approach entails, many of them have been replacing existing Windows applications. A directory-as-a-service offering that supports Microsoft Active Directory creates an alternative that allows those organizations to preserve their investment in those Windows applications.

It's too early to say just how profound a directory-as-a-service delivered via the cloud just might wind up being. But for a lot of cloud service providers, that part of the addressable cloud applications market suddenly got a whole lot larger.