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With more and more organizations following a “cloud first” strategy, IT infrastructure and security services also must shift to the cloud, where increasingly more of the critical workloads reside. However, the IT of most organizations will remain hybrid for long. Thus, there is a need of comprehensive authentication and single sign-on services, supporting all applications such as SaaS apps, on premises applications, and custom-built applications, delivering a seamless user experience for accessing these. Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) provides a strong foundation for delivering such services, with deep integration to cloud apps while supporting legacy applications and services.

Commissioned by Microsoft

1 Introduction

Many if not most organizations today are following a “cloud first” strategy, with lifting & shifting existing applications to the cloud, and with preferring new application procurement and deployment in as-a-service models. While cloud services are easy to deploy and commonly come with modern user experience, this shift also introduces new challenges to both the users and to IT and security management.

One of these challenges is that, while shifting to the cloud, the reality of most businesses will remain hybrid for many years, if not forever. Even if data centers are closed and workloads are moved to managed service providers running what then is called a “private cloud”, it is still about running legacy IT in a closed-down, private environment, alongside all the new SaaS services deployed from the public, multi-tenant cloud.

From both the user experience and the IT perspective, this factually means that challenges double. Users must access applications both on premises and in the cloud, and IT must manage and protect applications in both worlds. Altogether with the shift to new work experiences such as “work from home”, there is a need for providing a consistent user experience and management of hybrid IT environments. Solutions must reflect the hybrid reality of businesses and their IT.

Within these challenges, providing seamless access and integration with the wide range of solutions running on premises is by far the biggest challenge. However, integration with major SaaS services must also be solved, including the specifics some of the major environments such as Salesforce, SAP S/4HANA, AWS, Workday or ServiceNow have. Providing single sign-on to modern SaaS services is the simple part of the journey to the cloud – the challenge is supporting all services, i.e. the full range of services within the hybrid IT reality of today’s businesses.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory is an obvious solution for many organizations when selecting their solution for authentication and single sign-on to services, and as a central element within their future Identity Fabric, a logical architecture for delivering a consistent set of Identity Services, across all types of applications and users. Most businesses have an Active Directory in place in their on premises infrastructure, and a very significant number of organizations has opted for Microsoft Office 365, which relies on Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

In sum, Microsoft comes with a comprehensive, leading-edge approach for providing access to all types of applications, such as SaaS apps, on premises apps, and custom-built applications, to users, based on Microsoft Azure AD. For organizations, this provides a strong offering for a migration away from on premises Active Directory to Azure AD as the future cornerstone of user authentication and access services, and their future Identity Fabric.

With the shift of IT to the cloud in consequence of “cloud first” strategies, it is time for businesses to reconsider their approach on IAM in general, and to shift to a modern, central cloud service. With the shift of businesses to the cloud, IT infrastructure and security services also must shift to the cloud, while further supporting the hybrid IT reality of businesses.

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