What is provisioning?

Provisioning and deprovisioning are the processes that ensure consistency of digital identities across multiple systems. These processes are typically used as part of identity lifecycle management.

Provisioning is the processes of creating an identity in a target system based on certain conditions. De-provisioning is the process of removing the identity from the target system, when conditions are no longer met. Synchronization is the process of keeping the provisioned object, up to date, so that the source object and target object are similar.

For example, when a new employee joins your organization, that employee is entered in to the HR system. At that point, provisioning from HR to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) can create a corresponding user account in Azure AD. Applications which query Azure AD can see the account for that new employee. If there are applications that don't use Azure AD, then provisioning from Azure AD to those applications' databases, ensures that the user will be able to access all of the applications that the user needs access to. This process allows the user to start work and have access to the applications and systems they need on day one. Similarly, when their properties, such as their department or employment status, change in the HR system, synchronization of those updates from the HR system to Azure AD, and furthermore to other applications and target databases, ensures consistency.

Azure AD currently provides three areas of automated provisioning. They are:

Diagram of the identity lifecycle management.

HR-driven provisioning

Diagram of the HR provisioning.

Provisioning from HR to Azure AD involves the creation of objects, typically user identities representing each employee, but in some cases other objects representing departments or other structures, based on the information that is in your HR system.

The most common scenario would be, when a new employee joins your company, they're entered into the HR system. Once that occurs, they're automatically provisioned as a new user in Azure AD, without needing administrative involvement for each new hire. In general, provisioning from HR can cover the following scenarios.

  • Hiring new employees - When a new employee is added to an HR system, a user account is automatically created in Active Directory, Azure AD, and optionally in the directories for other applications supported by Azure AD, with write-back of the email address to the HR system.
  • Employee attribute and profile updates - When an employee record is updated in that HR system (such as their name, title, or manager), their user account will be automatically updated in Active Directory, Azure AD, and optionally other applications supported by Azure AD.
  • Employee terminations - When an employee is terminated in HR, their user account is automatically blocked from sign in or removed in Active Directory, Azure AD, and in other applications.
  • Employee rehires - When an employee is rehired in cloud HR, their old account can be automatically reactivated or reprovisioned (depending on your preference).

There are three deployment options for HR-driven provisioning with Azure AD:

  1. For organizations with a single subscription to Workday or SuccessFactors, and don't use Active Directory
  2. For organizations with a single subscription to Workday or SuccessFactors, and have both Active Directory and Azure AD
  3. For organizations with multiple HR systems, or an on-premises HR system such as SAP, Oracle eBusiness or PeopleSoft

For more information, see What is HR driven provisioning?

App provisioning

Diagram that shows the app provisioning flow.

In Azure AD, the term app provisioning refers to automatically creating copies of user identities in the applications that users need access to, for applications that have their own data store, distinct from Azure AD or Active Directory. In addition to creating user identities, app provisioning includes the maintenance and removal of user identities from those apps, as the user's status or roles change. Common scenarios include provisioning an Azure AD user into applications like Dropbox, Salesforce, ServiceNow, as each of these applications have their own user repository distinct from Azure AD.

Azure AD also supports provisioning users into applications hosted on-premises or in a virtual machine, without having to open up any firewalls. If your application supports SCIM, or you've built a SCIM gateway to connect to your legacy application, you can use the Azure AD Provisioning agent to directly connect with your application and automate provisioning and deprovisioning. If you have legacy applications that don't support SCIM and rely on an LDAP user store or a SQL database, Azure AD can support those as well.

For more information, see What is app provisioning?

Inter-directory provisioning

Diagram that shows the inter-directory provisioning

Many organizations rely upon both Active Directory and Azure AD, and may have applications connected to Active Directory, such as on-premises file servers.

As many organizations historically have deployed HR-driven provisioning on-premises, they may already have user identities for all their employees in Active Directory. The most common scenario for inter-directory provisioning is when a user already in Active Directory is provisioned into Azure AD. This provisioning is usually accomplished by Azure AD Connect sync or Azure AD Connect cloud provisioning.

In addition, organizations may wish to also provision to on-premises systems from Azure AD. For example, an organization may have brought guests into the Azure AD directory, but those guests will need access to on-premises Windows Integrated Authentication (WIA) based web applications via the app proxy. This scenario requires the provisioning of on-premises AD accounts for those users in Azure AD.

For more information, see What is inter-directory provisioning?

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