Windows Azure Active Directory

What is Windows Azure Active Directory?

WAAD is a cloud based implementation of Active Directory for identity management of cloud applications and Microsoft give it away as a free service. The idea of Windows Azure Active Directory is to provide a single sign on and identity management for cloud based applications it is used for Microsoft Office 365, Windows Intune, heaps of other cloud applications and if you build cloud applications you can use WAAD as identity management for your application.
You can also sync WAAD with your on-premis Active Directory using DirSync and ADFS(Active Directory Federation Services) to make your users passwords the same when they are logging into your local domain as when they are logging into the cloud applications.
WAAD also has a premium service that has extra features ontop of the free version like multi-factor authentication.

office 365 admin azure adHow to get Windows Azure Active Directory?

If you have any of the Office 365 business plans you will actually already have Windows Azure Active Directory because that is the directory management system for Office 365. You can access WAAD by scrolling down in the Office 365 Admin Center menu and selecting “Azure AD”. If you haven’t been in Azure before you will have to answer a couple of questions but then you will be in the Azure Portal and you can select your Active Directory Tenant.
If you do not have an Office 365 business plan then you can still sign up for WAAD, just follow these steps:
  • Sign up for an Azure Trial
  • Sign into the Azure Management portal with the credentials that you used to make the trail
  • In the management portal select Active Directory on the left hand menu
  • Then select New and follow the prompts
create azure active directory

Select Create your directory to make a new WAAD instance

What can you use Windows Azure Active Directory for?

As I said before Windows Azure Active Directory is for identity management but what does that actually mean…
This means that instead of having different usernames and passwords for many different apps you will be able to use your WAAD credentials(which as stated before can be made to be the same as your local domain credentials), it also allows the apps to be embedded into the Office 365 portal so a third party app is just a click away.
Also with Windows 10 you will be able to join your computer to an WAAD domain, which means that anyone in your organisation will be able to sign into the computer and get their own setup. This functionality is available currently for testing the in Windows 10 preview at the moment.
At the moment I think the best feature of Windows Azure Active Directory is the Single Sign on features but as it improves and is built on WAAD may actually become a viable option for enterprise instead of an on-premis Active Directory.
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