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Azure AD Administrative Units – Preview!

Recently I was approached by a customer regarding a challenge they wanted to solve. How to delegate administrative control of a few users within Azure Active Directory to some lower level administrators? This is a common problem experienced by teams as they move to cloud based directories – a flat structure doesn’t really allow for delegation on business rules. Enter Azure AD Administrative Units; A preview feature enabling delegation & organisation of your cloud directory. For Active Directory Administrators, this will be a quite familiar experience to Organisational Units & delegating permissions. Okta also has a similar functionality, albeit implemented differently.

So when do you want to use this? Basically any time you find yourself wanting a hierarchical & structured directory. While still in preview, this feature will likely grow over time to support advanced RBAC controls and in the interim, this is quite an elegant way to delegate out directory access.

Setting up an Administrative Unit

Setting up an Administrative Unit is quite a simple task within the Azure Portal; Navigate to your Azure AD Portal & locate the option under Manage.

Select Add, and provide your required names & roles. Admin assignment is focused on user & group operations, as device administration has similar capability under custom Intune roles and application administrators can be managed via specific roles.

You can also create administrative units using the Azure AD PowerShell Module; A simple one line command will do the trick!

New-AzureADAdministrativeUnit -Description "Admin Unit Blog Post" -DisplayName "Blog-Admin-Users"

User Management

Once you have created an administrative unit, you can begin to add users & groups. At this point in time, administrative units only support assignment manually, either one by one or via csv upload. The process itself is quite simple; Select Add user and click through everyone you would like to be included.

While this works quite easily for small setups, at scale you would likely find this to be a bit tedious. One way to work around this is to combine Dynamic Groups with your chosen PowerShell execution environment. For me, this is an Automation Account. First, configure a dynamic group which automatically drags in your desired users.

Next, execute the following PowerShell snippet. Note that I am using the Azure AD Preview module, as support is yet to move to the production module.

This can be configured on a schedule as frequently as you need this information to be accurate!

You will note here that one user gets neatly removed from the Administrative Unit – This is because the above PowerShell treats the dynamic group as an authoritative source for Admin Unit Membership. When dealing with assignment through user details (Lifecycle Management) I find that selecting authoritative sources reduces both work effort and confusion. Who wants to do manual management anyway? Should you really want to allow manual addition, simply remove the line marked to remove members!

Hopefully you find this post a useful insight to the usage of Administrative Units within your organisation. There a lot of useful scenarios where this can be leveraged and this feature should most definitely help you minimise administrative privilege in your environment (hooray!). As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments! Stay tuned for my next post, where I will be diving into Azure AD Access Packages 🙂

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