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Microsoft ‘Entra’ launch renews push for decentralized ID and cross-cloud permissions

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How Microsoft’s Entra Verified ID system works. (Microsoft Chart)

Microsoft is rebranding its identity and access products under the name “Entra,” and rolling out a decentralized system to verify online identities, confirm permissions and grant user access.

The company will make its decentralized identity service, Entra Verified ID, generally available in August. It’s a rebranded version of what was previously available in public preview as Azure Active Directory Verifiable Credentials.

With the Verified ID launch, Microsoft says it’s implementing industry standards for decentralized online identity, promising to streamline the complex process for employee onboarding, as one example.

The company is positioning Verified ID as an alternative to the single sign-on approach used by Facebook and others.

“Instead of granting broad consent to countless apps and services and spreading identity data across numerous providers, Verified ID allows individuals and organizations to decide what information they share, when they share it, with whom they share it, and—when necessary—take it back,” explain Joy Chik and Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft corporate vice presidents, in a post announcing the Entra launch.

Microsoft has been working on digital identity and access technologies in different forms for decades, but the company embraced this decentralized approach several years ago as a founding member of the ID2020 Alliance.

The company is also launching a new CIEM (cloud infrastructure entitlement management) service called Microsoft Entra Permissions Management, based on its acquisition of CloudKnox Security last year, managing permissions across Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform.

Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory, the widely used corporate identity and access management service, will also operate under the Entra umbrella, the company says.

Charlie Bell, Microsoft executive vice president in charge of the company’s Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management organization. (Microsoft Photo)

It’s part of a broader effort to reshape the company’s security, privacy and identity business under Charlie Bell, the former Amazon Web Services executive who joined Microsoft last year as executive vice president, leading what was then a newly combined Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management organization.

Bell recently rolled out a reorg of the division and a set of “organizing principles,” according to a May 18 report by Insider. The principles include his belief in “creating engineering primitives as the foundation upon which we can create building blocks for our various products and services, and so can our developer and partner ecosystem.”

With the Entra launch, pricing will remain the same (monthly charges per user) for Azure Active Directory and external identities, Alex Simons, Microsoft corporate vice president of product management for identity and network access, told Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet. Verified ID will be part of Azure Active Directory for purposes of pricing, with premium services planned for the future.

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