Microsoft is extending an ‘Outage Mode’ for Azure Active Directory, which aims to make the IT giant’s cloud tech much more resilient to outages. This much-required addition will support web and desktop applications as well.
Azure Active Directory (AAD) is a cloud directory that takes care of the Office 365 authentication, and it can be integrated with on-premises Active Directory. Developers also pen applications using AAD, and it is one of the most crucial applications of Azure. However, should this feature ever glitch, the customers experience multiple ramifications, which include Azure Portal outage.
Microsoft modified its Service Level Agreement (SLA) for AAD, and it impressed upon the aspect that Azure’s uptime has increased to 99.99 percent from 99.9 percent. The IT giant has elaborated on this aspect, stating that this uptime boost surfaced after Microsoft initialized a backup authentication service that apes the authentication data during regular operations.
With this new addition, if AAD goes under, the directory immediately moves into the outage mode, which allows the users to keep the business running by checking their requests and providing tokens to the clients.
This feature has been operationalized on Outlook Web Access and SharePoint Online since 2019. It was ironic that both these services experienced an outage in September 2020, and Microsoft acknowledged the issue as “a recent configuration change impacted a backend storage layer,” and it was apparent that the backup addition couldn’t cushion the impact as Microsoft further elaborated on the issue was compounded by “a change put in place to mitigate impact.”
This useful feature comes with a limitation where the user can exploit the backup services of the app or resource accessed within the last 72 hours. This duration, which has been termed as the storage window, was perceived by Microsoft to be a fair technicality as the important applications shall be accessed daily from the same device. This perception has a flaw as the user may not be able to exploit the outage mode if he changes the device.
Despite the hiccups, Microsoft has been working on extending the feature’s support to other applications. Earlier, the IT giant enhanced the outage mode to support desktop and mobile apps, and next year, many more web apps (including Teams Online) will be supported. Support for Office 365 and Open ID Connect is also in the making.
How the Resilience Has Been Enhanced
When the AAD services are interrupted, the outage mode kicks in automatically and redirects the authentication requests to the primary AAD service while the primary servers recover. This re-routing allows the users’ applications to continue functioning.
Under regular circumstances, the backup feature stores vital information and couples it with the authentication replies from AAD. The latter is done to regenerate session-specific data. The outage mode stores three days of data, and this storage allows business continuity.
One has to bear in mind that while procuring a workstation, one has to inspect whether outage mode is active on the new workstation.
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