With its recent announcement of Microsoft Azure Active Directory B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Customer/consumer/client), which are in Public Preview now, Microsoft has extended the capabilities of Azure AD (Active Directory). Detailed information is available in the Active Directory Team Blog.

There are two new services available now. One is Azure AD B2C Basic (which suggests that later there will be Azure AD B2C Premium as well). This service focuses on connecting enterprises with customers through a cloud service, allowing authentication of customers and providing access to services. The service supports social logins and a variety of other capabilities. Organizations can manage their consumers in a highly scalable cloud service, instead of implementing an on-premise service for those customers. The primary focus for now is on authenticating such users, e.g. for access to customer portals. Customers can onboard with various social logins such as Facebook or Google+, but also create their own accounts. Applications can work with Azure AD B2C based on OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect standards.

The second piece available now is Azure AD B2B Collaboration. This service includes a number of new capabilities allowing management of business partners and, in particular, federation with these business partners. Of particular interest is that small organizations can be invited by a company already using Azure AD B2B. These then can rely – for that particular business relationship – on Azure AD without additional cost.

With this initial release, a strong baseline set of features is delivered for both services. B2C, for example, supports step-up-authentication which can be triggered by applications. Some other features such as account linking, i.e. supporting various logins of one person (e.g. Facebook and Google+) relating back to the same identity, are not yet available. However, being a cloud-based service, new features will be added on a regular basis in rather short intervals.

With the new Azure AD B2B and B2C enhancements, Microsoft is extending its Azure Active Directory towards a service that is capable of supporting all use cases of organizations, whether it is employee access to cloud services; managing business partner relationships; or managing even millions of consumers in an efficient manner based on a standard service. With these new announcements, Microsoft is clearly raising the bar for its competitors in the Cloud IAM market.