Crowd serves a very important purpose if you intend to use other atlassian products with jira like stash/bamboo/confluence. It provide Signle-Sign on and can handle application/directory mapping really well, for large installation of atlassian products you can't rely on JIRA user mgmt. Also If you wan to buy different user license for different atlassian products like 25 user for stash/ 50 for confluence and 100 for jira in that scenario all accumulated users can use Crowd and things are in much better order, I can't imagine doing something like that with JIRA user management.
Hope it helps.
Crowd is useful for larger organizations - multiple LDAPs spanning many users. Also if you have custom auth that isn't a typical LDAP.
It provides caching - something JIRA doesn't do as well.
It can also help you get around firewalls and other security policies in the organization.
I will try to explain you what is Crowd in the light of your other questions as well. From the start, I'm a developer, not on Atl team, but I hope I will put it in plain English.
So: Crowd is a Atlassian custom user management system. Its purpose is to provide a common auth mechanism for all Atl products (architecturally speaking: component reusing). If you install only JIRA, there's always a Crowd instance embedded into JIRA responsible for auth and user management.This local instance can delegate calls to an external instance as well, and this is how Crowd servers are used to create the SSO mechanism.
This change was introduced, if I remember well, in 4.x versions
You are asking those questions because you want to pass over some limitations of Crowd. Thankfully all Atl products are extensible, so to resolve the problem of having multiple emails in JIRA you can add - for instance - custom attributes on the user and notify not only the main address but the address taken from properties as well.
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