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Microsoft splurges on single sign ons with Active Directory update

One identity manager to rule them all, one directory to bind them

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Microsoft has expanded the capabilities of its identity and access management infrastructure to allow for single sign-on of a multitude of corporate apps.

The upgrades to Windows Azure Active Directory were announced on Sunday, and bring pre-integrated single sign-on for apps from Office 365 to Box.com, Salesforce.com, and even Redmond-nemesis Google Apps.

Admins can also configure their own sign-on policies for other apps using SAML federation, to ease corporate use of apps.

Though there are already a multitude of technologies in the marketplace for monitoring and authorizing use of apps by employees, cloud operators such as Amazon and Microsoft are trying to create their own identity management systems as well.

The kicker with Active Directory is that its native integration with Windows Azure can let admins easily link it to both cloud resources and on-premises directors. This sets Microsoft apart from Amazon which, for now, has a thin presence inside corporate firewalls.

In tandem with the SSO, Microsoft also announced a reporting feature for Active Directory that claims to be able to flag "suspicious logins" to admins.

All the features are available in preview beginning Monday. The news comes alongside Amazon Web Services introducing more detailed access controls for its cloud resources, which allow Amazon admins to use permission-based access down to the individual level of specific rented instances and RDS databases – something that Redmond does not do yet.

But given the raging competition for corporate workloads among Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, we're sure that more updates for Active Directory will come along soon to blunt Google's edge. ®

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