What is Active Directory?

What does the typical office workday look like in the 21st century?

You wake-up. You get a shower and get cleaned up (brush teeth, brush hair, etc.). You select the clothes for the day. You grab a snack or small breakfast. You then lock the home/apartment for the day, and start the car and drive to the office. You park your car. You walk to your desk, saying good morning to a few co-workers as you get to your office. You sit down and then log into the computer and open your email client (Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc.). While your emails and calendar update, you log into your work phone and write down your voicemails to facilitate calling people back during the day.

Does this sound familiar? It does? Good, then we can work from here.

Let’s look at what you do when you sit at the desk. You logged into the computer at your desk. You typed in a username and password combination only known to you. This was given to you from the I.T. department or Human Resources when you joined the company, and you have been regularly updating the password per I.T. Security policy and guidelines.

This username and password allow you to log into company computers and get similar access to resources, regardless of the machine used or the time at which you use it. The username and password are stored on a set of servers; each username has assigned to it specific access and usage abilities that have been approved by both I.T. and your departmental supervision and management.

This username has been stored on servers. If your company has a Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Azure infrastructure, the servers that store this information for the entire organization are Active Directory servers (note: if your company has a Linux or Unix infrastructure, the servers are LDAP rather than Active Directory; but the logic is similar).

Active Directory, simply stated, is a Microsoft product that uses accounts (called objects) to control (give or revoke) permissions to other objects, groups of objects, and network resources.

For each user that logs into a Microsoft Windows account, there exists on the company network (called the domain) an object that exists in the company Active Directory (domain). When the correct username and password are selected for the domain, you are granted access to network (domain) resources based on how the object is constructed.

Objects in Active Directory are available for most users, printers, network groups, and so much more.

So, in short, Microsoft Active Directory is an organized hierarchy of objects that control access to resources.

Why Do Companies Migrate to Azure?

In modern business, one of the areas expanding exponentially is Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing. More and more institutions, as well as individuals, are moving their computer-related tasks to Azure. This is part of the cloud computing age, which is going to grow more and more in the coming years.

Now, this raises a question: Why do companies migrate to Microsoft Azure?

There are many answers to this question. However, I will focus on two major reasons why companies migrate to Microsoft Azure: Reducing costs and increasing performance.


If I could pick one driver for migrating to Azure, it would be reducing costs. Remember, the cloud (including Azure, AWS, GCP, and more) is just a set of large datacenters that you rent to host your Information Technology tools. You pay a recurring cost to have the luxury of using another datacenter to run your tools.

With Azure cloud usage, you can reduce the overall Information Technology costs for some of the following reasons:

  1. No need to purchase and warranty servers
  2. No need to purchase and warranty routers and switches
  3. No need to purchase and warranty network area storage devices
  4. No need to purchase and warranty storage area network devices
  5. A cost reduction as you do not need to purchase and insure a building for a datacenter
  6. A cost reduction as you do not need to purchase and maintain the network connectivity for the building
  7. A cost reduction as you do not need to pay for the electricity to the building


These costs are given to Microsoft (if you are using Azure cloud), and the overall costs are then divided into hourly/computer-usage units, so you are only charged for what you use. Most businesses only use a small fraction of the total computer power available to them, so the costs are a fraction of what the current spending is.


One of the largest advantages that Microsoft Azure presents is its ability to increase performance. Microsoft is continually building more servers across the United States and the world at large.
As these new datacenters are constructed, the latest and greatest physical devices and networking are used to provide users with the best experience in Azure. Additionally, new tools are continuously being made available in the various portals for Azure, which increase the options for performance and optimizing execution.

With Azure cloud usage, you can increase the overall performance of your Information Technology infrastructure for some of the following reasons:

  1. You can increase application compute resources within seconds
  2. You can increase application network resources within seconds
  3. You can increase application storage resources within seconds
  4. You can increase application database resources within seconds
  5. You can increase application security resources within seconds
  6. You can link multiple copies of an application infrastructure (redundancy) for near 100% availability
  7. The supporting platform in Microsoft Azure will have the latest updates, improving performance and stability


For so many reasons like the ones above, it is easy to see why companies are eager to move more tools to the cloud — YOU ARE GETTING MORE PERFORMANCE FOR LESS COST.

What Does “Migrate to Azure” Mean?

A large amount of money made in Information Technology comes from business (aka B2B) markets and consumer (aka B2C) markets. Additionally, an emerging market is individuals building Information Technology based tools for other consumers (aka C2C).

A significant portion of this market is the devices that these tools operate on/from (aka hardware). These can include physical servers, storage area networks, routers, switches, network area storage, firewalls, and much more. Keep in mind — these devices are primarily located in datacenters or ‘network closets.’

As the Azure computing generation continues to move forward and expand in the marketplace, Azure cloud computing costs continually reduce. The cost reductions increasingly spawn more opportunities for more businesses to afford to build profits from running in Azure.

This presents a problem: How can Azure be used when these Information Technology solutions are running in datacenters?

The answer is simple: MIGRATE TO AZURE!

When a datacenter or network closet is migrated to Azure, it is a similar structure to how the datacenter is currently constructed. Using virtualized devices (i.e., software that does the same functions as the relative physical devices), you are able to recreate the current datacenter in Azure using some of the many tools that Azure offers.

The next stage is to copy the applications and data currently running in the datacenter to Azure. As the data and applications that are shared are moved, application experts are on standby to properly reconfigure and later test these applications.

At this time, a group of ‘power users’ (i.e., clients who use the software and have a deep understanding of how it should work and operate) are engaged to use the software.

Finally, all the customers who use these applications are told to use the Azure cloud implementation; and shortly afterward, the old datacenter’s copy of the software is backed-up and then the old instance is deleted (called “retired”).

This process is known as migrating to Azure cloud … full of opportunity and increasingly in demand in the marketplace.

What Is a Datacenter?

When computers were first mass adopted in society, there were mainframes and large consoles were used to access the mainframe. These mainframes were as large as basements in modern homes or even larger; they required (at times) custom, dedicated power lines just to keep them powered.

Furthermore, they were extremely expensive (the Harvard Mark I mainframe….used in the 1940s and later … had a manufacturing cost of $200,000 USD — in 2020, that would be around $3 million USD). These mainframes were used to calculate (think SUPER calculators), primarily using information called data.

These machines were quite big; the Harvard Mark I was 9,500 pounds, or over 4 tons and was over 50 feet long. As more widespread adoption of these units became a reality, these units required massive amounts of customized real estate to house them.

Basically, you needed a large ‘center’ to house these machines that calculated new ‘data.’ Welcome to the idea of a datacenter!

A short, concise understanding of the term datacenter is a large area or room dedicated to housing larger computing devices and the network/electricity/etc. needed to keep them up and running as close to 100% of the time as possible.

Fast-forward to 2020. The typical modern datacenter may have some AS400 units (modern mainframe), but will also have large metal shelfs (called racks) which hold servers, network switches, network routers, network patch panels, backup tape drives, NAS and SAN storage units, and more. The main purpose of all these devices is to do the large calculation, manipulation, and distribution of information for an organization.

Think of it this way:

For most companies, most of the large data sets and information tables stored and updated/calculated against are stored in datacenters. Furthermore, the cloud concept is renting datacenter access from other companies (eg., Microsoft Azure).

To summarize, a data center is the large area or room dedicated to housing larger computing devices and the network/electricity/etc. needed to keep them up and running as close to 100% of the time as possible.

What Does On-Prem Mean?

Make no mistake; the cloud is the future of what business computing is going to be. Companies are now doing deeper investigations into how to use the cloud to increase profits and reduce costs. For companies like Microsoft Azure, this presents an outstanding opportunity as more companies move more of their computing tasks to the cloud.

However, this raises a question: if more businesses are moving to the cloud, where are they currently and how does it work right now?

Companies that are looking to move to cloud are largely looking to move computers and more that are currently in remote data centers and on-prem. When we say on-prem, what we mean is that the computers that do the massive processing and people who access that data are either on the same geographic campus or in the same building/complex.

Essentially, on-prem refers to being on the same premise as the person/people who are currently speaking.

Now, let’s connect this definition to the case above. The question was where are these companies currently, and how does that work right now?

Companies looking to move to the cloud in the future now have many computing resources on-prem, or in the same buildings as the people who utilize them. Examples include: on another floor of the same building, in the building next door, in a closet down the hallway, and more. The big computers (e.g., AS400 Mainframe, Cisco Nexus, Dell PowerEdge, EMC XtremIO, etc.) are usually in one or two locations if they are on-prem and all together in one big room. You may also find networking equipment in this location as well (e.g., Cisco Meraki, Cisco Catalyst 9300, Cisco Catalyst 8200 Edge uCPE, etc.).

So, in short, on-prem means at the same geographic location.