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Microsoft Entra is the Latest Microsoft Rebranding Triumph
On July 11, Microsoft announced that the Microsoft Entra brand is absorbing Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), which now becomes Microsoft Entra ID. The announcement came along with news of two new Entra products as Microsoft ventures into the Security Service Edge (SSE) arena to take on competitors such as Zscaler, Palo Alto Networks, and Netskope, all leaders in Gartner’s 2023 Magic Quadrant for the SSE space.
According to the announcement, Microsoft 365 scenarios in Microsoft Entra Internet Access are in preview today. The Microsoft Technical Community blog says that Entra Internet Access includes “unique capabilities for Microsoft 365, including Universal Tenant Restrictions, to prevent data exfiltration to other tenants or personal accounts including anonymous access, near-real time threat detection, higher precision of the risk assessment on user, location, and device, and more seamless access to Microsoft 365 apps.” If you’re interested, head to the preview sign-up page for Entra Internet Access.
A message center notification (MC637368) followed up to make sure that Microsoft 365 tenant administrators heard the news about Azure AD’s new name, even though this is just a rebranding exercise that delivers precisely zero new functionality to any tenant. It’s like previous rebranding triumphs where Microsoft made:
- Microsoft 365 the catch-all brand for Office.
- Microsoft Defender the catch-all brand for Security.
- Microsoft Purview the catch-all brand for Compliance.
- Microsoft Viva the catch-all brand for anything that the marketeers could see.
Web pages might change, documentation might use different terminology, but Azure AD remains the same. Microsoft characterizes the name change as representing “the evolution and unification of the Microsoft Entra product family, and a commitment to simplify secure access experiences for everyone.” This is corporate speak for “we’re stuffing Azure AD into the Microsoft Entra brand to create Entra ID. It makes us look good even if it doesn’t do anything for the end user.” More information about the rebranding is available here.
Microsoft Entra ID Isn’t for On-Premises Software
In my opinion, Azure AD did a good job to deliver secure access experiences with many enhancements delivered over the last two years in the drive to make modern authentication and MFA more pervasive, like adding Authenticator Lite to Outlook mobile, and improving how conditional access policies work by including new capabilities like measuring the authentication strength for connections. The rebrand adds nothing.
A case can be argued that Microsoft is throwing away the reputation accrued over nearly 25 years by Active Directory and Azure Active Directory to give a existing product a new name. Equally, you could argue that renaming Azure AD will remove the confusion that sometimes exists between the cloud and on-premises directories. What’s for sure is that Windows Active Directory is not changing its name because the Entra brand does not extend to on-premises software. The same applies to Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) and Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).
On the plus side, Microsoft isn’t changing licensing or pricing. They also say that they’re not changing capabilities, but that’s just corporate fluff too because code doesn’t work differently when it gets a new name. URLs, APIs, and authentication libraries remain the same.
Microsoft Entra Renaming Schedule
Following the 30-day notification period for tenants, Microsoft will roll out the name change over the rest of 2023, with service plan names (the kind you see when assigning licenses to user accounts) due to change on October 1, 2023. You can download a useful CSV file of license and service plan names from Microsoft. I use this data in the Microsoft 365 licensing report script (updated to work with the Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK V2).
By early 2024, we should all have transferred our allegiance to Microsoft Entra ID and consigned the Azure AD name to the wastebasket of computer brands.
More Work for the Book Team
From the perspective of the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook, we have some work to do to update our chapters to replace Azure AD with Entra ID where appropriate. I guess we don’t have to do this immediately, but it’s certainly something that must happen over time. It’s just another item for our to-do list!
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