Azure Active Directory Review

Provides an organization flexibility to move towards the public cloud

What is our primary use case?

I was a consultant. I recently changed my job (seven days ago). Most of my customers did everything in Azure. They used Azure Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) as well as Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) to sync a user's profile using AD Connect and a federated model. So, they could access an application on-premises as well as in a cloud. 

I am now a CTO for a big hospital. I manage Azure AD for all hospitals as the CTO. They also use Office 365 across all four of their hospitals. 

The solution is hybrid cloud. We have the Active Directory on-premises and Active Directory Domain services in Azure. This is where I use AD Connect (or sync server) to sync the user's profile.

How has it helped my organization?

Azure AD has features that have helped improve security posture. From a security point of view, they integrated with Okta, which is one of the integrations that we used for a customer's use case. From there, their entire security posture is managed and integrated with Azure.

It gave better visibility on our customers' security posture - the way that they configure users, configure their end user computing, and multi-factor authentication. This is where they get better visibility and manageability through this particular solution.

A use case that we did for an end user in a manufacturing organization: We used WVD with biometric authentication because 1,500 processes need to happen in a process. The user didn't want to use a login using their credentials. They wanted to use fingerprinting or tap their ID. That is where we integrated with the authentication. Now, they can process in a couple of hours, and they run those 1,500 processes every day. This changed their login process, which improved the manufacturing process. This helped a lot for their high deployment.

In my current organization, it is connected only for Office 365. We are getting into other services that Azure has to offer, but that has not yet started. The first use case that we are going to do is backup and recovery through Azure AD.

We are trying to do backup for some Tier 1 applications through Commvault. We will use that data to restore within the Azure environment or Azure Virtual Network (VNet), recovering all the applications. We then make sure that we have the capability for recovering those applications end-to-end. This is where Azure AD will play a huge role, so we don't have to come down to on-premises for authentication.

What is most valuable?

  • The authentication process, e.g., multi-factor authentication.
  • Directory Domain Services.
  • Azure AD Connect (sync services).

What needs improvement?

The biggest thing is if they could integrate with their IPS/IDS processes as well as have integration with another app, like a third-party application. Varonis was another solution that my customers are trying to integrate with ADFS. For some reason, they were seeing some difficulties with the integration. There is a case open with Microsoft on this particular thing.

The only issue is the OU is not properly synced. Therefore, you have to do a manual sync sometimes or you might lose the connector due to AD Connect or sync servers.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using it for a couple of years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I haven't seen any major issues. 

We had a customer with roughly around 80,000 users. They had three SMEs or FTEs managing their Active Directory environment or solution.

Maintenance-wise, we need at least two FTEs for backup, making sure that we have the right coverage 24/7.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I think we can add more systems to make sure that we can connect. The documentation provides more detail about the sizing information for OVA files or AD Connect files on the server. So, you have those kinds of capabilities built into the scalability.

How are customer service and technical support?

Before, we used to manage most technical issues. For example, if there was a critical thing that had to happen, then we would open a case. The support that we used to get from Microsoft was great because we were a Gold partner with Microsoft, so we had good access for the technical team.

We don't use the technical support too much because we have engaged a partner for my current organization. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was so straightforward. The documentation is good. There were no problems deploying it. We did the deployment for one customer in less than an hour. Another customer took some time because it is more like a process for change management. Otherwise, the actual installation, download, and configuration took less than a couple of hours.

My previous company's focus was on how to integrate a customer's Active Directory with Okta, how to integrate it with MFAs, and how to integrate with security IMs.

The deployment was easy to do and integrate with on-premises. So if it was a small- or medium-sized customer, we could bring them into the cloud in no time. Also, we could start looking into other applications that the customer could use: Docker containers or DevOps. This is where we spent most of the time, i.e., with customer design.

Every hospital with Office 365 comes with Active Directory Domain Services so you need to sync all your users. That is how the implementation is done today.

What about the implementation team?

At my previous employer, most of our customers' application deployment used Ruby on Rails in their AWS environment and were looking for an authentication process. So, we installed Active Directory or ADFS in Azure for a specific client. Then, all applications would get authenticated to Azure Active Directory and synced from their on-premises environment. 

There was another client for whom we installed Azure Directory Domain Services, which synced with their on-premises data and federated model so we could get the single sign-on. We then installed Azure VMware Solution in Azure for their expanding or extending their on-premises VMware architecture.

We created a questionnaire where we documented the customer's current environment. For example, customers wanted to sync the amount of users. We then used that questionnaire to take care of the prerequisite before we even started deploying this solution.

The whole deployment process should take less than one FTE.

What was our ROI?

It provides an organization flexibility to move towards the public cloud, so their workload can be upstream. They can see that they don't have to come down to their on-premises for any authorization authentications. That is where we were seeing more development environments, staging environments, and DevOps environments, as most of our customers were pushing towards the public cloud, which would then be integrated with their Azure Active Directory.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing model is straightforward. I don't think there are any issues with the E3 license or E5 license.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We had a customer with very traditional architecture in AWS. We spun up the ECP instance, then installed and replicated the Active Directory. Other than that, I don't think we had another customer who was going in a different direction.

What other advice do I have?

We have a budget for Q4 2021. By Q1 2022, we are hoping to get one hospital completely in Azure by 2022.

The only way to learn about the value that Azure brings to the table is if a customer can use as an evaluation copy or license. Then, they can integrate and push the development OUs or the test OU to make sure that they can integrate with the MFAs.

I would rate this solution as an eight or nine (out of 10).

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Hybrid Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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