Howdy folks,

I’ve got more cool news to share with you today about Windows Azure Active Directory (AD). We’ve been hard at work over the last 6 weeks improving the service and today we’re sharing the news about three major enhancements to our developer preview:

1)   The ability to create a standalone Windows Azure AD tenant

2)   A preview of our Directory Management User Interface

3)   Write support in our GraphAPI

With these enhancements Windows Azure Active Directory changes from a being compelling promise into a standalone cloud directory with a user experience supported by a simple yet robust set of developer API’s.

Here’s a quick overview of each of these new capabilities and links that let you try them out and read more about the details.

New standalone Windows Azure AD tenants

First we’ve added the ability to create a new Windows Azure AD tenant for your business or organization without needing to sign up for Office 365, Intune or any other Microsoft service. Developers or administrators who want to try out the Windows Azure Active Directory Developer preview can now quickly create an organizational domain and user accounts using this page. For the duration of the preview these AD tenants are available free of charge.

User Interface Preview

Second, I’m excited to share with you that we have also added a preview of the Windows Azure Active Directory Management UI. It went live as a preview last Friday to support the preview of Windows Azure Online Backup. With this new user interface administrators of any service that uses Windows Azure AD as its directory (Windows Azure Online Backup, Windows Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows InTune) can use the preview portal at https://activedirectory.windowsazure.com. Administrators can use this UI to manage the users, groups, and domains used in their Windows Azure Active Directory, and to integrate their on-premises Active Directory with their Windows Azure Active Directory.   The UI is a standalone preview release.  As we work to enhance it over the coming months, we will move it into the Windows Azure Management portal to assure developers and IT Admins have a single place to go to manage all their Windows Azure services. 

Please note that if you log in using your existing Windows Azure AD account from Office 365 or another Microsoft service, you’ll be working with actual live data. So any changes made through this UI will affect live data in the directory and will be available in all the Microsoft services your company subscribes to (e.g. Office 365, InTune, etc.). That is of course the entire purpose of having a shared directory, but during the preview, you might want to create a new tenant and new set of users rather than experimenting with mission critical live data. Also note that the existing portals that you already use for identity management in these different apps will continue to work as is providing a dedicated in-service experience.

Write access for the Windows Azure Active Directory Graph API

In our first preview release of the Graph API we introduced the ability for 3rd party applications to Read data from Windows Azure Active Directory. Today we released the ability for applications to easily Write data to the directory.  This update includes support for:

  • Create, Delete and Update operations for Users, Groups, Group Membership
  • User License assignments
  • Contact management
  • Returning the thumbnail photo property for Users
  • Setting JSON as the default data format

An updated Visual Studio sample application is available from here, and a Java version of the sample application is available from here.  Please try the new capabilities and provide feedback directly to the product team - the download pages, includes a section where you can submit questions, comments and report any issues found with the sample applications.

For more detailed information on the new capabilities for Windows Azure AD Graph API, visit our updated MSDN documentation.

It’s exciting to get to share these new enhancements with you. We really hope you’ll find them useful for building and managing your organizations cloud based applications. And of course we’d love to hear any feedback or suggestions you might have.

Best regards

- Alex Simons, Director of Program Management, Windows Azure Active Directory