Imminent Deprecation of Azure AD PowerShell Modules Creates Knowledge Gap in Documentation

Microsoft and Other Documentation Needs Updating

Microsoft announced their intention to retire the Azure AD Authentication Library (ADAL) and Azure AD Graph API in June 2020. A consequence of this decision meant the retirement of the Azure AD PowerShell modules, including the now very old Microsoft Online Services (MSOL) module. Even though Microsoft has pushed the retirement date out to “at least the end of this year” (2022), the writing is on the wall for these modules.

Tenants will feel the first effect on August 26, 2022, when Microsoft 365 moves to a new license management platform. At that time, the PowerShell cmdlets for license assignment will stop working. Microsoft’s guidelines for converting from the old cmdlets to the Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK include the blunt phrase that “there is currently no tool to automatically convert scripts.” In other words, it’s time to get coding, testing, and preparing to switchover. Good documentation is at a premium during conversions, and that’s an issue right now.

With two years’ warning, we can hardly plead a lack of awareness when the change happens., but with about 50 days to go, I don’t detect any great pressure. Maybe people will change when license management scripts and products stop working, or users report strange errors. It’s odd.

The Problem Lurking in Microsoft Documentation

One thing that might not be helping is the continued use of Azure AD and MSOL PowerShell examples in Microsoft documentation. After all, if the official documentation gives implicit approval to these modules, why bother changing? And to be fair, apart from license management, all the cmdlets will continue to work past the retirement date. There just won’t be any support or future updates.

Take the documentation to delete or restore user mailboxes in Exchange Online. This includes four references to the old Remove-MsolUser cmdlet as the text explains to readers how to remove an Azure AD user account permanently from the Azure AD recycle bin (Figure 1).

Microsoft documentation recommends the use of the obsolete Remove-MsolUser cmdlet

Azure AD PowerShell
Figure 1: Microsoft documentation recommends the use of the obsolete Remove-MsolUser cmdlet

It would be more impactful if the documentation used Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK cmdlets or Graph API requests. For example, here’s how to use a Graph API request to retrieve the list of deleted Azure AD accounts in the recycle bin:

$Uri = "https://graph.microsoft.com/V1.0/directory/deletedItems/microsoft.graph.user"
[array]$DeletedUsers = Invoke-MgGraphRequest -Uri $Uri -Method Get
ForEach ($Account in $DeletedUsers.Value) { Write-Host $Account.displayname, $Account.id }
… select a user and then
Remove-MgDirectoryDeletedItem -DirectoryObjectId <Guid for deleted account>

This is an example where using a Graph API request is easier than the equivalent Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK cmdlet (Get-MgDirectoryDeletedItem – see this example). The point is that if Microsoft documentation featured methods that customers can use in the future instead of the soon-to-be-deprecated modules, it would encourage tenant administrators to adopt those methods.

To be fair to Microsoft, they have tons of pages to update with new examples. However, it’s something that I think should happen sooner rather than later to nudge people along the path to where they should go.

The Problem with Azure AD Examples Across the Wider Internet

Much the same issue exists across the wider internet. Think of the average administrator who wants to find how to accomplish a task using the Azure AD PowerShell cmdlets. They’ll probably start by searching the internet to see how others did the same thing, and they’ll find many examples of old code. There’s always a big caveat about code you find on the internet: don’t trust anything until after fully testing the code. This advice still holds, but now we’re in a situation where the code that someone finds on August 20 to perform automated license assignment with PowerShell won’t work a week later.

I accept that the other cmdlets in the Azure AD and MSOL modules will continue to work after Microsoft retires the modules, but my point is still valid: examples based on soon-to-be-deprecated modules have a short shelf life.

You can’t expect blog writers to go back and revise every post with a reference to an Azure AD or MSOL cmdlet. Some might update some posts, but in general, it won’t happen. Nor should it. A blog post is a snippet of knowledge captured at a point in time rather than a definite statement about how something works that remains current. What’s different about this situation is that many posts face accelerated degeneration to a point where their content is no more than an interesting look back into the past.

Things Will Improve Over Time

Time heals many things. In this case, as time progresses and old blog posts decay, people will post new information and insights to renew the corpus of knowledge available on the internet. The Office 365 for IT Pros team is keenly aware of the issue and has generated several articles to help, including:

And of course, we’ve just released the 2023 edition of the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook containing over 250 examples of the Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK cmdlets in action. In fact, we replaced every instance of using the Azure AD PowerShell cmdlets with the except of connecting to another tenant to update your guest account photo. The permissions model used by the Graph is completely different to the permissions granted when someone connects to Azure AD with Connect-AzureAD, and that’s why we had to leave that example. Over time, we hope to find a workaround and be able to remove the last vestige of Azure AD PowerShell.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.