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First look: Windows Azure Active Directory preview

Jonathan Hassell | Aug. 10, 2012
It's lacking enough functionality to make it worth waiting for subsequent versions, Jonathan Hassell says, unless you're building Azure apps right now.

What will the graphical user interface for managing WAAD look like? Right now, since it's still early days in the product's lifecycle, IT users can administer the service only via remote sessions of PowerShell; there's not yet a GUI.

The PowerShell command environment is the primary method, so far, for managing Windows Azure Active Directory instances.

Microsoft promises there will be a GUI included with a future preview release, but one wonders whether that GUI will be full-featured or if it will cover only the most commonly used aspects of WAAD. One also wonders whether to do advanced administration and federation, customers will have to drop down to PowerShell cmdlets and abandon any GUI completely for those more advanced features.

How does on-premises Group Policy work when ported to Active Directory in the cloud, or vice versa? Group Policy has been integrated with Active Directory and Windows Server since the 2000 release and most corporations have extensive deployments of Group Policy objects that manage access and permissions to a variety of servers, files and settings within the security domain.

But Group Policy is functional only with on-premises deployments, at least as it is currently written. How will this policy information carry over into the cloud? Will administrators be able to set Group Policy-based access to cloud services and get very granular with those permissions? Will they be able to set Group Policy Objects, or GPOs, on premises using existing Microsoft-built and third-party-developed management tools that companies have already invested significant money in? Will Group Policy administration move to the cloud and "trickle down" over time to on-premises deployments?

I can find no public statement about how Group Policy will grow and change along with cloud-based directories, so this is absolutely an area to watch as WAAD continues down its development path.

How does Windows Intune fit in with WAAD? Microsoft has been marketing Windows Intune as a way of bringing together the management of both domain-joined and non-domain-joined Windows machines in addition to iOS-based devices like the iPhone and iPad, and Windows devices.

Intune's meant more for small to midsize organizations that would like to manage all their IT assets from the cloud. The Intune model doesn't really integrate well with other management tools, making it a poor choice (at least in its current iteration) for larger organizations.

But since we don't know much about how Group Policy will work, is it possible that the Windows Intune management infrastructure will be subsumed into WAAD, and computer and device management will be enabled from there? Is this a way to bring integrated computer and device management to the cloud, particularly for larger customers with big numbers of deployed computers, and away from on-premises solutions? There may be an interesting story to tell here in the coming months; stay tuned.

 

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