Microsoft Bundles Up Azure Active Directory Beta Tools, Releases Public Preview

Microsoft said Monday it is bundling up several previously separate tools for connecting on-premise Windows Server Active Directory to its Azure cloud-based counterpart, and offering them as a single product.

The combined product, called Azure AD Connect, now combines "a bunch of different tools" for connecting Windows Server to the Azure cloud into an integrated whole, Alex Simons, director of program management for Microsoft's Security and Services division, said in a blog post Monday.

These tools include DirSync, Azure Active Directory Connect, Azure Active Directory Sync, and ADFS, Simons said.

Microsoft is also now offering Azure AD Connect as a public preview, and a new release with support for production deployments is just around the corner, said Simons in the blog post.

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"Our goal is to GA Azure AD Connect with additional sync options, seamless migration from Dirsync, and production support in the next 90 days," said Simons in the blog post.

[Related: Microsoft Adds Basic Tier To Azure Active Directory Tool]

This is an example of how Microsoft is removing barriers to its customers and partners using Azure, which is going up against Amazon Web Services and Google in the market for on-demand computing services delivered via the public cloud.

But unlike AWS and Google, Microsoft is very focused on letting customers move to the public cloud at their own speed by mixing and matching it with their on-premise private clouds. So Azure AD Connect is a key technology for Microsoft and its channel partners that sell Azure services.

Jason Sauers, founder and director of connected systems at Phidiax, a Denver-based Microsoft Azure partner, said the Azure Active Directory Connect tool enables critical Active Directory components to be co-located, making it easier for organizations to deploy hybrid clouds.

"Microsoft has a history of successfully unifying technology offerings into a common platform or framework," he said.

Simons said the revamped Azure AD Connect lets customers connect their on-premise Windows Server Active Directory with its Azure counterpart in only four clicks.

Microsoft launched Azure Active Directory, its cloud-based identity and access management service, as a free offering for Azure users in April 2013. Its Basic offering includes self-service password reset for cloud users and an enterprise-grade SLA that promises 99.9 percent uptime.

In April of this year, Microsoft added a Premium, paid version of Azure Active Directory with advanced functionality for enterprises.