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What? Azure Active Directory is becoming Microsoft Entra ID

Congratulations, your AD evolved into Entra! Pokémon jokes aside, here's what it means for your identity and access management (and how you're better off).

Aug 15, 2023 • 4 Minute Read

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Just in case you missed the news, Azure Active Directory (aka. Azure AD) is sporting a new name: Entra ID. But what does that mean for you as an Azure customer? The name has changed, but is there anything else different?

Thankfully, you can breathe easy. Other than a bit of mental adjustment, you probably don't need to take any action other than updating some documentation or training material. Anywhere you currently use Azure AD, you can safely swap it to Entra ID, such as:

  • Microsoft Azure AD Tenant -> Microsoft Entra ID Tenant
  • Microsoft Azure AD Premium P1 -> Microsoft Entra ID P1
  • Azure AD Conditional Access -> Microsoft Entra Conditional Access

There are only a couple of exceptions, one example is Azure AD B2C. At this point, you might be asking 'If there's no change to the service, why bother changing the name?' After all, name changes cause confusion and disruption, and Azure AD isn't a niche offering.

The old name was confusing

Not too long ago, I was at the local Azure User Group chatting with an application developer. The topic of Azure AD came up, and he asked the question: "What even is AD?"

"Active Directory," I replied.

"What even is that?" He said.

"Um, it's the foundation for almost every corporate network on the planet." At the time, I assumed he was joking.

"Oh, never heard of it."

I nearly fainted. Who hasn't heard of Active Directory? But it turns out there are heaps of people who haven't, and more that may have heard of it but have no idea how it works!

For those of us that do, it was welcoming to hear the name 'Active Directory' when Azure was getting traction. I was like "Ahh, I know that this is home for me. This feels comfortable."

Except for one small thing: Azure Active Directory is nothing like the Active Directory (specifically, Active Directory Domain Services AD DS) I've known and loved for many years. The only thing it had in common was the name! I've dedicated whole portions of lessons in both my AZ-800 and AZ-500 courses explaining exactly that.

To eliminate this confusion, the name needed to change.

Microsoft: A rose by any other name is not as sweet

Renaming services to avoid confusion is standard faire for Microsoft. Remember, Microsoft Azure was originally called Windows Server Azure for years before they nixed the old name. The name shift helps clear up that the Microsoft cloud wasn't just limited to running Windows Server workloads.

More recently, Microsoft did this by changing ‘Azure Security Center’  to Microsoft Defender for Cloud and ‘Azure Sentinel’ to Microsoft Sentinel to ditch the Azure-specific references. This made sense because both of these are multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud capable products, and adding ‘Azure’ does make much sense.

Azure AD is the same: It's a small but important slice of the Microsoft Identity platform, and a multi-cloud Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) offering. The first part of the name really needed to change from Azure to Microsoft, and the second part needed to change because as stated earlier, it really has nothing in common with Active Directory Domain Services.

Entra: An appetizer for defense

You know what Entra reminds me of? It reminds me of Entrée --- you know, the snack you have before your main meal. And if you think about the defense in depth strategy for securing your workloads, identity is the perimeter or the outer shield of those layers of armor.

Through that lens, the name 'Entra' makes perfect sense. 

We’ll see Microsoft continue to build on this brand, adding more services and features to their IDaaS offering, and the concept of identity being the perimeter, not your firewall.

I hope you found that explanation useful. Now if you'll excuse me, I've now got hundreds of labs and lessons to update with "Entra ID". Whew!