Azure® Active Directory (AAD or Azure AD) has emerged as a popular identity management tool for admins pondering cloud-based user management. Those looking to move their on-prem infrastructure to the cloud are wondering whether Azure AD can manage identities without the need for legacy hardware, like a local server.
As IT departments evaluate the practical uses of Microsoft® Active Directory® (AD) in modern IT environments, many have questioned whether they can move off-prem entirely.
Below, we’ll discuss the various applications of AAD, as well as solutions for those looking for entirely cloud-based identity management.
What is Azure AD?
Azure AD is a cloud-based user management platform from Microsoft. It serves as the primary user management tool in Azure, and can be used to extend core AD identities to select SaaS applications and Azure infrastructure.
Admins looking to use AAD on its own are typically interested in leaving behind the maintenance and costs of on-prem Active Directory, including domain controllers. And while most organizations choose to leverage Azure AD and AD together, Azure AD can be used entirely on its own. Doing so allows organizations to abandon local servers (such as Active Directory’s domain controller) and move legacy infrastructure off-prem.
However, it’s also important to note that in order to complete tasks related to system management, legacy application authentication, and network access control, on-prem AD and Azure AD need to be used together. Specifically, AAD alone struggles to authenticate users to networks via RADIUS; manage systems, applications, or storage; or enforce GPOs (or the like) for on-prem Windows®, macOS®, or Linux® devices.
Leveraging Azure AD as a core identity provider (IdP) requires add-on solutions, and oftentimes those other solutions mean the addition of on-prem hardware (such as a local server for AD).