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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 about Kerberos support? Kerberos is used in Active Directory environments to perform transparent seamless authentication and authorization, and while it's the basis of all Active Directory transactions, it is of particular emphasis and importance in cross-platform environments.

For example, large universities typically leverage Kerberos protocol sets to allow Unix and Linux, as well as Macintosh, machines to authenticate against Active Directory since those operating system platforms dont natively support the way Windows typically exchanges security information with Active Directory.

With WAAD, there's no mention of Kerberos support. With all of the talk of mobile support and managing identity information for phones, tablets and other devices, one is left to wonder whether support for Macs and Linux machines will be included with this release of WAAD. This could be a significant drawback to deploying this technology for organizations with large sets of non-Windows computers.

The last word

Windows Azure Active Directory is an interesting, but not yet compelling, addition to cloud-based directory services. In this July developer preview release, IT pros building applications both internally and for sale can now integrate with Microsoft accounts already being used for Office 365 and other cloud services and will soon be able to, with the final release version of WAAD, integrate with other consumer directory services. That's useful from an application-building standpoint.

Additionally, IT pros can enable federation scenarios and synchronization between on-premises Active Directory deployments and Windows Azure. But for now, unless you're running Office 365, there's not much with which to integrate. The cross-platform and administrative stories are simply not there yet.

Stay tuned for more developments on this promising technology -- as it matures, it could be quite interesting -- but unless you're building Azure apps right now, you can give this release a pass.

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures LLC, a consulting firm based out of Charlotte, N.C. He's also an editor with Apress Media LLC. Reach him at

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.


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