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Azure Portal's Latest Active Directory Features Now Available for Preview

Azure portal's new Azure Active Directory features for administrators were released for testing today.

Of course, it might seem that the Azure portal management tool should already have such basic Azure AD management capabilities in place. However, in Microsoft's new and more agile software development world, a product can get released without full-feature support. The Azure portal is one of those evolving kinds of products, but it'll eventually supplant the current "classic" portal used for managing Azure tenants, Microsoft has indicated.

To test the new Azure Active Directory admin capabilities, IT pros need to access the Azure portal "as a global administrator" and add "Azure Active Directory" to the portal, according to Microsoft's announcement.

New Azure AD Admin Capabilities
Using some of the new Azure AD admin capabilities requires having an Azure AD Premium subscription in place. Microsoft's announcement didn't always clarify when the Premium subscription would be required, though.

One example is that an Azure AD subscription will be needed to view "all users sign-in data." A Premium Azure AD subscription also will be required to see graphs of user sign-ins, according to Microsoft's announcement.

According to this Microsoft Azure article, the Premium edition also is required for self-service group and app management, self-service password resets, and multifactor authentication capabilities. Microsoft offers its Azure AD subscriptions as Free, Basic, and Premium 1 and Premium 2 editions, as listed here.

So, while some capabilities require a Premium subscription, Microsoft's announcement just listed the Azure AD admin capabilities in an overall general sense.

To get started with the new Azure AD admin preview capabilities, IT pros simply add the "Azure Active Directory" option to the Azure portal. Users will then see an Overview "blade," which is Microsoft's term for the "resource menu" on the left side that displays the main Azure AD capabilities. The blade of the Azure portal located on the right side shows a group of "tiles" with options for "Recommended" activities, "Users and Groups" and "Quick tasks," among others.

The portal lets IT pros drill down into the details in "user-centric" views. They can see the groups to which a user belongs, for instance. It also displays roles assignments. End user activities can be viewed in the "Audit logs."

Microsoft added a new "Enterprise applications" selection to the portal's Overview blade. It will show end user applications use, including "SaaS apps that you have added from the app gallery, line of business apps that are integrated with Azure AD, and apps that your users or admins have added themselves," according to Microsoft's announcement. The top applications based on user sign-ins can be shown in chart form. Microsoft also added the ability to see "all user and group assignments to an application in a single view."

The Evolving Azure Portal
Microsoft admitted in its announcement that the Azure portal currently just has "a subset of the capabilities from the classic portal." Technically speaking, the Azure portal hit "general availability" release status in December, meaning that Microsoft considers it ready for use in commercial environments, but right now, IT pros still have to switch to the classic portal to get some things done.

Compared with the so-called "classic" Azure management solution, the Azure portal lacks many capabilities, which can be seen in this comparison chart. However, despite its holes, the Azure portal is still Microsoft's leading-edge management product going forward. It's destined to replace the classic portal used to manage Azure tenants. Moreover, Microsoft is planning to build new capabilities into Azure portal, but not the classic portal, going forward.

"Once usage has moved to the new portal we'll deprecate our experience in the classic portal," Microsoft's announcement explained.

The classic portal hence will become a dead end. Right now, though, it's still kept around. The Azure portal has a switch at the top that restores the classic portal when it's needed.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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