Folks, this is big. Check out the announcement that went out yesterday on the Windows Azure blog.

In fact, I am going to quote it here in its entirety! Here goes:

Identity Management and Access Control are anchors for virtually all critical processes, collaboration and transactions. To that end, it was no accident that Access Control was one of the very first cloud services we delivered within Windows Azure.  In the years since, customers have often reminded us that in addition to being highly reliable and easy to use, identity management should be delivered by a cloud directory available for use by any business, large or small, around the world.

Built with the customer insights gained over the years from Windows Server Active Directory (the identity management system that 95% of enterprises to manage identities in their on-premise computing environments) Windows Azure Active Directory is built for business and built for the cloud.
To help make identity management in the cloud accessible and available to every business and organization in the world, we are announcing today that two key features of Windows Azure Active Directory are available at no charge.

  • Access control provides centralized authentication and authorization by integrating with consumer identity providers, such as Facebook, or using on-premises Windows Server Active Directory.  By having Access Control available you can create a single application that can allow users to login with both their Organizational Credentials stored in Windows Azure AD or Windows Server AD, or to login in using popular consumer service identity services like Microsoft Account, Facebook, Google, or Twitter.  Historically, Access Control has been priced based on the number of transactions. We are now making it free.
  • Core Directory & Authentication enables capabilities such as single sign-on, user and group management, directory synchronization and directory federation. These features are currently free in the Windows Azure AD Developer Preview and will remain free after it reaches general availability.

With these changes Microsoft is making it easier than any other vendor to get started with identity management in the cloud.  Try out Windows Azure Active Directory today and experience how easy it is to create an identity for your organization.

For more technical details on Active Directory, check out Alex’s Simon’s posts Enhancements to Windows Azure Active Directory Preview and Windows Azure now supports federation with Windows Server Active Directory.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions below.

Sincerely,

Steven Martin
General Manager
Windows Azure Business Planning

I am sure that this announcement made many of you very, very happy :-)