Can You Migrate to Azure AD from Active Directory?

Written by Greg Keller on March 29, 2017

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No. At least that’s what Microsoft themselves says. This thread on Spiceworks explains it all.

Here’s some relevant text from the thread:

Azure Active Directory is not designed to be the cloud version of Active Directory. It is not a domain controller or a directory in the cloud that will provide the exact same capabilities with AD. It actually provides many more capabilities in a different way.

That’s why there is no actual “migration” path from Active Directory to Azure Active Directory. You can synchronize your on-premises directories (Active Directory or other) to Azure Active Directory but not migrate your computer accounts, group policies, OU etc.

As you can see here Azure Active Directory is an identity and access management solution for hybrid or cloud-only implementations. It can extend the reach of your on-premises identities to any SaaS application hosted in any cloud. It can provide secure remote access to on-premises applications that you want to publish to external users. It can be the center of your cross-organization collaboration by providing access for your partners to your resources. It provides identity management to your consumer-facing application by using social identity providers. Cloud app discovery, Multi-Factor Authentication, protection of your identities in the cloud, reporting of Sign-ins from possibly infected devices, leaked credentials report, user behavioral analysis are a few additional things that we couldn’t even imagine with the traditional Active Directory on-premises.

Even the recently announced Azure Active Directory Domain Services are not a usual DC as a service that you could use to replicate your existing Active Directory implementation to the cloud. It is a stand-alone service that can offer domain services to your Azure VMs and your directory-aware applications if you decide to move them to Azure infrastructure services. But with no replication to any other on-premises or cloud (in a VM) domain controller.  

If you want to migrate your domain controllers in the cloud to use them for traditional task you could deploy domain controllers in Azure Virtual Machines and replicate via VPN.

So to conclude, if you would like to extend the reach of your identities to the cloud you can start by synchronizing your Active Directory to Azure AD.

Consider This: Is Yours A Microsoft or Mixed-Platform Environment?

cross platform management

As we have been saying for a while now, Microsoft’s strategy with Azure Active Directory is to be an adjunct solution to the on-prem, legacy Active Directory. This works if you are an all-Microsoft shop or if you are centering your organization on Office 365 and Azure.

If your organization has moved to a mixed-platform environment, this strategy is challenging. Active Directory struggles with mixed-platform solutions, such as Mac, Linux, and non-Windows applications. Azure Active Directory struggles with connecting organizations to AWS, G Suite, Google Cloud, and many other providers. For most organizations, this lack of integration with non-Windows / Microsoft platforms is a significant impediment to creating a single, centralized identity provider.

This approach is classic Microsoft and works for their homogeneous customers.

How to Actually Migrate from Active Directory

With modern office environments, a centralized directory service that is independent is required. Directory-as-a-Service® is taking this approach. It is an independent Identity-as-a-Service platform that securely manages and connects user identities to their IT resources, including systems, applications, and networks.

If you would like to learn more about you can migrate from Active Directory instance to Azure Active Directory, drop us a note. Since that migration path won’t work, we’ll walk you through how you can migrate from Active Directory to Directory-as-a-Service. If you are inclined, you can give the cloud directory service a try to see if it will work for you as an alternative to Active Directory.

Greg Keller

JumpCloud CTO, Greg Keller is a career product visionary and executive management leader. With over two decades of product management, product marketing, and operations experience ranging from startups to global organizations, Greg excels in successful go-to-market execution.

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