Microsoft remakes its Active Directory tool for linking Windows Server, Azure

Microsoft has released a new public preview of Azure Active Directory Connect, a tool for connecting Windows Server AD to Azure AD. It will replace DirSync and the standalone Azure AD Sync tools.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft has made available to testers a public preview of its "new" Azure Active Directory Connect tool that is designed to link Windows Server Active Directory to Azure Active Directory.

The updated Azure AD Connect tool is a revised version of the Azure AD Connect tool that Microsoft made available in beta in August of this year. Company officials said Microsoft revised the tool because of feedback from testers that signaled Microsoft needed to make Azure AD Connect simpler.

Rather than offering a bunch of different tools for connecting on-premises and cloud directories, including DirSync, Azure AD Connect, Azure AD Sync, Active Directory Federation Services, etc., users "want one simple, integrated tool," according to a December 15 blog post announcing the new preview.

The new Azure Active Directory Connect preview now "includes all the advances of AAD Sync and the features from the beta release of Azure AD Connect into simple, fast & lightweight solution. Azure AD Connect has everything you need to connect your Windows Server AD(s) and Azure AD with only 4 clicks," according to Microsoft execs.

Microsoft made Azure AD Sync generally available in September 2014. At that time, officials called Azure AD Sync "our new 'one sync to rule them all,'" noting it "greatly simplifies the process of connecting Azure AD to Windows Server AD, including making it simple to connect complex, multi-forest deployments."

The updated Azure AD Connect tool is going to replace this just-released standalone Azure AD Sync, today's blog post states. (The password write-back feature that is part of the standalone Azure AD Sync is now part of the updated Azure AD Connect tool.)

The new Azure AD Connect tool also is going to replace DirSync. There are no future releases of DirSync coming.

From today's post:

"Our goal is to bring 100% of the previous DirSync functionality into Azure AD Connect. Before we GA (make generally available) Azure AD Connect we will bring all Dirsync functionality in.... Our goal is to GA Azure AD Connect with additional sync options, seamless migration from Dirsync, and production support in the next 90 days.

"Please note there will no longer be separate releases of Azure AD Sync and Azure AD Connect. And we have no future releases of DirSync planned. Azure AD Connect is now your one stop shop for sync, sign on and all combinations of hybrid connections."

I've asked Microsoft execs if this new "one stop shop for sync" means that Azure AD Connect has implications for any other on-premises-cloud connectivity tools Microsoft has fielded over the past couple of years, such as Azure Virtual Network. No word back so far.

Last week, Microsoft announced a number of other Active Directory updates. Users can now buy Azure Active Directory Premium directly online via the Office 365 portal without having to have an Enterprise Agreement in place. Microsoft also made generally available Azure AD App Proxy, designed to provide employees with secure access to on-premises apps including Sharepoint and Exchange/Outlook Web App from the cloud.

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