The Azure-Active Directory connection just got easier

Microsoft releases AAD Connect, a new wizard-driven tool to help ease the connection

On InfoWorld this week, Matt Asay questioned some of the bold comments from the Microsoft camp about Azure's current place in the cloud world and its potential to be the "cloud leader" by year-end. The numbers aren't adding up perfectly, though Asay agrees that "Azure is on fire."

Still, there are some interesting numbers that might have naysayers taking pause before they write off the possibilities of Microsoft besting Amazon as "cloud leader" if not by 2015, soon thereafter. One datum that caught my attention: "300 million Azure Active Directory users."

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Using Active Directory in Azure is essential whether you are going with a full cloud-based approach or with a hybrid scenario. The problem is that making the Azure connection has been a pain -- until now. This month, Microsoft's Active Directory team released the Azure Active Directory Connect (AAD Connect) wizard, which helps make a single Active Directory forest connection to Azure Active Directory. Microsoft says a future version will support multiforest scenarios as well.

The tool has only a few input requests, so with a few clicks you can start synchronizing. Even though it's beta software, that's a big step to removing the pain of using Active Directory with Azure. For example, it eliminates the manual steps you would typically have to perform, such as:

  • Downloading and installing prerequisites such as the .Net framework, Azure Active Directory PowerShell module, and Microsoft Online Service sign-in assistant
  • Downloading, installing, and configuring Dirsync (and soon AAD Sync), and enabling it in your Azure tenant
  • Configuring either password sync or Active Directory Federation Service (depending on your preferences)
  • Confirming that all is working smoothly

Obviously, depending on your needs, you may need to have certain prerequisites in place for everything to work. For example, you may need Windows Server 2012 R2 to have Active Directory Federation Service installed and configured. AAD Connect is a wizard, but not a real wizard -- there is still plenty of work to do on your part.

In addition to the promised future support for multiforest scenarios, Microsoft is working on optional features for Exchange hybrid deployments and Azure Active Directory application and attribute filtering.

Enhancements like this will help administrators take another look at Azure, and not just once. Azure Active Directory is evolving, the process to connect to it is evolving, and its features and prices are evolving. At some point, the equation will work for almost everyone.

In the end, I agree with Asay that Microsoft may not have the biggest cloud by 2015. But I also agree with his statement: "It will almost certainly continue to build out public cloud services that enterprises buy because they help carry their data center assets forward into a cloudy future."

In short, Microsoft Azure is the horse to bet on for the long term.

This story, "The Azure-Active Directory connection just got easier," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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