Including Members from Other Groups in Membership of Dynamic Groups
Until recently, Dynamic Azure AD Groups have not supported the ability to include members from other groups in their membership (aka, nested groups). You can construct membership rules to include the same accounts in a dynamic group, but it’s easier to say, “include the members from groups 1, 2, and 3” if those groups already exist and include the necessary accounts.
In a June 6 announcement, Microsoft introduced a preview feature to allow the membership rules for dynamic Azure AD groups to use the memberOf attribute. In essence, memberOf instructs Azure AD to extract the membership of one to up to 50 groups and include the individual members of those groups in the dynamic membership.
Creating a New Azure AD Dynamic Group
Apparently, the preview feature is available worldwide. I had no success using it in the Azure AD admin center. Any attempt to create a new group (of any type) generated the error: “per label policy, the selected visibility is not allowed” (Figure 1). No doubt this is due to some configuration I have tweaked, but the error message is obscure, to say the least.
But where the will exists, you get the job done, and PowerShell came to the rescue. I created the new dynamic group with the following command. You can see that the membership rule is that the membership comes from any user members in the specified groups.
$Group = New-MgGroup -DisplayName "System Innovation" -Description "Dynamic group containing system innovators" -MailEnabled:$True -SecurityEnabled:$False -MailNickname SystemInnovators -GroupTypes "DynamicMembership", "Unified" -MembershipRule "user.memberOf -any (group.objectId -in ['ef4af711-bf83-4ba1-81be-fd98f4098d12',' d6279df7-2eff-4566-ba93-22aa9320385b','b07c7e05-10e0-47a4-acca-767621ac8ddc'])" -MembershipRuleProcessingState "On"
The groups added were:
- A Microsoft 365 group with assigned membership.
- A Microsoft 365 group with dynamic membership.
- A distribution list with a fixed membership.
Microsoft’s documentation doesn’t include any reference to using distribution lists, but as Azure AD treats distribution lists like other groups, it seemed like they should work. After all, you can run the Get-MgGroupMember cmdlet (or Get-AzureADGroupMember if you still haven’t converted from the soon-to-be-deprecated module) against a distribution list and Azure AD is happy to list the members. And as it turns out, you can include the membership of distribution lists in dynamic Azure AD groups. After an hour or so, Azure AD resolved the rule and built the membership of the new dynamic group, including the removal of any duplicates (Figure 2).
During the preview, a dynamic group can have up to 50 groups in its membership, and each tenant can have up to 500 dynamic groups that use the memberOf attribute in their membership rule. If you add security groups to the membership of a dynamic group, Azure AD includes only the direct members of the security group in the dynamic group’s membership.
In addition, Microsoft says that you can’t use a dynamic group that uses the memberOf attribute to define the membership of another group that also uses memberOf. The old and well-proven adage to keep it simple (stupid) rings loud and clear. Don’t nest groups inside groups and don’t over-complicate things. Perhaps more complicated arrangements might be possible in the future, but for the preview, don’t give Azure AD complex membership rules to resolve. For more information on including groups within the membership of dynamic groups, read Microsoft’s documentation.
Another issue is that the memberOf attribute can’t be used with other rules. For instance, let’s assume that you assemble a set of users drawn from the membership of several other group. You can’t add another filter to select people whose accounts match another attribute, such as the department or country.
For now, the rules editor doesn’t work for this type of dynamic group, nor does the other Validate Rules preview feature which allows administrators to check the effectiveness of a membership rule against an account that they know should be in a group’s membership (Figure 3).
Dynamic Teams Work Too
I updated the group’s properties to enable it for Teams. Support for dynamic teams has been around since 2018, but it’s always wise to check. The good news is that the dynamic membership for the team appears as expected (Figure 4).
There’s no doubt that this is a good change. Anything that adds to the flexibility and capability of dynamic Azure AD groups is a good thing. The bad thing is that Microsoft requires Azure AD Premium P1 for dynamic groups (Exchange Online dynamic distribution lists don’t need additional licenses). The guidance is:
This feature requires an Azure AD Premium P1 license or Intune for Education for each unique user that is a member of one or more dynamic groups. You don’t have to assign licenses to users for them to be members of dynamic groups.
It would be nice if dynamic groups were included in Office 365 E3, but life is cruel sometimes…
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