With the popularity of Office 365, and it’s use of Azure Active Directory (AD), I get a fair amount of questions pertaining to Azure AD. I thought I’d put together a post that provides an overview of Azure Active Directory, what it is, and what it isn’t.
Azure AD is used to manage access to Microsoft cloud applications, such as Azure and Office 365, as well as non-Microsoft Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Azure AD is separate from your on-premises AD; it is not a replacement.
You can synchronize your on-premises AD with Azure AD so that user attributes and passwords are consistent between the two directories. Effectively, users can use the same credentials to access on-premises resources and cloud-based resources.
Azure AD can be used to provide a single sign-on experience across Microsoft cloud applications, such as Azure and Office 365, and non-Microsoft SaaS applications. Users can leverage a personalized web-based Access Panel to launch cloud applications.
Azure AD supports the use of Azure Multi-Factor Authentication, and additional offering from Microsoft, which supports the use of mobile apps, phone calls and text messages.
Beyond the above features, Microsoft has a premium version of Azure AD – called Azure AD Premium. The additional features available in Azure AD Premium include:
Self-service password reset
Self-Service Group Management
Group-based provisioning and access management to SaaS applications
Advanced Security Reports and Alerts
Enterprise scale SLA
In addition, Azure Multi-Factor Authentication for cloud and on-premises applications is included with Azure AD Premium. Azure AD Premium also grants you entitlements to Forefront Identity Manager Server and CALs.
There are some limitations with the free version of Azure AD that do not apply to Azure AD Premium. Specifically:
Maximum of 500,000 objects in free Azure AD; no object limit in Azure AD Premium.
Up to 10 apps per user can reside in the Access Panel portal for SSO-based user access to SaaS; no app limit in Azure AD Premium.
For a full comparison of features between the free Azure AD and Azure AD Premium, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/azure/dn532272.aspx