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."
"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.