two feathered friends

This is a very special week for me because we have a guest, a good friend of mine, Kirk Evans from Microsoft.

Imagine a really ruggedly handsome man and that's Kirk. Kirk, take a minute and tell the nice folks who you are, what you do and one interesting fact about yourself.

Let's Jump Right In

Evans: So I work for Microsoft. You can tell because I actually just started a sentence with the word "so." So I apologize for that.

I've been with Microsoft for about 11 years and I started out in developer platform evangelism. I was a developer and then I moved over into SharePoint and then I lost all sense of proper architecture and development, and then, thankfully, I moved over to Azure.

So I've been with Azure for about three years and focused solely on helping some of the largest customers in the world adopt Azure and start develop really interesting business solutions. (Ed. Note: Evans is a Microsoft Architect for the Azure Center of Excellence)

An interesting fact? I've known Todd so long that I was telling him I was packing up a cooler with the kids to go out to the pool this weekend and I pulled out an old SharePoint 911 koozie that he had given me a while back. So I guess there's my interesting fact for today.

Klindt: Funny thing about those koozies. My buddy Shane ordered those five or six years ago and ordered … we'll say 100.

I'm convinced that those things replicate like rabbits because it would seem like at every conference we would give out 200 of those and we would still have 75 left.

It was like there were boxes of them in his basement and he was giving them out to homeless people in Cincinnati, burning them to keep his house warm. I'm convinced he's still got a box of 1,000 of them in his basement.

Kirk and I both spoke at the SharePoint Revolution Conference in London back in April. And I sat in on a couple of Kirk's Azure sessions.

As a SharePoint guy, especially as a SharePoint admin, the last couple of years have been kind of rough.

I haven't really known what my future held, what SharePoint was going to look like for the next version, what my job was going to look like, if I was going to have to learn how to make burgers or sack groceries.

So far I'm 41, my hands don't have any calluses on them and I don't actually work for a living. And I was kind of hoping to keep that going for a while.

But it's been kind of scary because we just haven't known what was going on with SharePoint, and one of the technologies I've been playing with a little more is Azure and the associated stuff.

Azure is big umbrella. There are a lot of things underneath it. So when I was in London I sat in on a couple of Kirk's sessions on Azure AD, which was kind of interesting,

Between that session that you did at Evolution, Kirk, and a bunch of stuff I sat in on at Microsoft's Ignite conference in Chicago in May, I really kind of jumped in to the Azure AD thing.

I've been studying for the Azure Architecture Exam and will be taken that in the next couple of weeks. So that's kind of why I wanted to have Kirk on because I think for us SharePoint folks think the Azure Office 365 thing is kind of scary. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've gotten excited about it.

Evans: If you remember — I don't know, 10 years ago — active directory domain services really took off in the enterprise. Everybody was, "Okay we can put users in there, we can control printers and we can start to do unnatural things with trust and start to set up this really insane architecture."

Then somebody came out with a device that couldn't join to the domain and suddenly everybody wanted to access in turnover ports. The CEO is sitting there saying, "I want to access those internal ports on my iPad."

So what's the value of Azure AD? Azure AD is a directory service in the cloud. It has the ability to manage users and groups and with Windows 10 devices.

But it also has some other really cool capabilities where it allows you to perform things like cloud federation and access to third party applications and even access to on-premises SharePoint. So that's kind of my pitch.

Klindt: During your session, said described Azure AD as a service that Microsoft runs — an endpoint that you connect to, kind of like Active Directory on steroids.

Evans: The cool part is many people here already have an Office 365 account or even might manage a tenant in Office 365. When you have that, you're actually using Azure AD behind the scenes. When you add users, when you assign permissions and licenses and all that stuff, it's actually managed by Azure AD behind the scenes.

Klindt: That's an interesting thing because once you get your users into Office 365 — and we SharePoint folks seem to think the world revolves around SharePoint. 

But we get all of our users in there and we're thinking in our head that our users are in SharePoint. But in reality SharePoint users are in Azure AD, which means now we can use those identities for other products. And I think that's kind of the beauty of it.

Windows 10 is going to be ready to market here in a couple of weeks. And Windows server 2016, which comes out next year, will have built-in support for adding Azure domains. So you don't even need domains on-premise anymore.

Evans: Azure is this big huge umbrella of a bunch of really cool toys that developers love to play with because there's something for everybody. But I figured I'd talk about building a SharePoint farm, kind of what the audience is interested in.

So if you're going to build a SharePoint farm, you still need a domain controller in Azure that's close to your database and close to the SharePoint farm itself. Azure AD won't replace that part, but if you're using Office 365 — which is just really SharePoint-as-a-Service, it already has Azure AD behind it.

Even better is if you already have Azure AD with Office 365. Then it's not a separate add in or anything, it's just part of the service. You don't even know it's there.

You comfortably use Office 365 and you don't even have to know anything about it. But on the new administration portal for Office 365, all the way over to the left and all the way over at the bottom you'll see this new little tab that says Azure.

Then you click that and it will take you to this page where you sign up for a free Azure subscription.

Then you'll be able to start to see all of the magic goodness that is Azure AD that you probably didn't even know you had access to — things like Office 365's multi-factor authentication. Or, with Azure AD premium, you can add your own apps in there, for instance to enable access to Salesforce.

And then I can say, "Well anybody who has access to Salesforce also has multi-factor authentication for that application."

Klindt: So like Kirk was saying, if you've got Azure virtual machines and you've got your SharePoint 2013 farm up in there, you still need a domain controller for the machines and for the service accounts. But you can use Azure AD for your users, so you can mix and match all that. So it's not for machines yet but it's for your users.

More? Of Course There's More

Want to hear more from Kirk Evans? There's a lot of stuff in Podcast 252. So if you're tired of reading, watch the podcast or listen on iTunes. The time stamps will link to the location of the content.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Title image by jd.echenard.