Product reuse at Microsoft as seen through a FIM lens

Microsoft and other large software vendors often fall foul of criticisms that products overlap significantly, or that discreet functionality in one product has been written afresh when the facility is already mature in another technology. As I’ve grown to know it better, I think Microsoft’s Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) provides some interesting examples of the benefits and drawbacks of product re-use. I put these thoughts out as a set of considerations to counter the view that reuse is always a positive thing.

Note: I wrote this article a long time ago, and have always been on the fence about posting it because it’s an editorial rather than purely technical content. I’m not 100% certain this is the right place for this content, but I am publishing it here now rather than letting it rot. Because this was written a long time ago, some references are dated. Like this doesn’t speak of MIM, AADSync or AAD Connect in any detail, so put that knowledge to one side for now.

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Things that don’t update when changing an AD FS URL in Windows Server 2012 R2

Windows Server 2012 R2 introduces a number deep changes to the way that AD FS works, which means that as practitioners, we need to look for solutions to problems in new, unexpected places. For instance, in the old world, if AD FS was completely unresponsive, the first place I would look after AD FS itself would be IIS. In AD FS 2012 R2, IIS doesn’t play a role. Requests are still served by the HTTP.SYS kernel driver but we interact with it using NETSH HTTP, which connects to the driver via the User Mode HTTP Server API. IIS and other familiar components would also interact with this API previously, but they provided a friendlier layer of abstraction between an administrator and the API. Interacting with HTTP.SYS using NETSH HTTP brings a learning curve with it, particularly when it comes to understanding what is and is not controlled here. Also, there is no GUI and the security that HTTP.SYS enforces is stricter than the abstracted layer that IIS has historically opened up. This web server architecture change and other new differences add to the difficulty of tracking down problems when things don’t work as expected, as detailed in this post.

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Office 365 Single Sign Out with ISA or TMG as the ADFS Proxy

Over the last year I’ve spent a decent chunk of my time shaping and delivering Identity and Access Management workshops for Office 365 projects at Content and Code. This is generally underpinned by Active Directory Federation Services v2.0 (ADFS). In fact I don’t think we’ve done a single Office 365 project without it. Along the way I’ve become acquainted with many of the nuances of the sign on and sign out experiences as they differ across Office 365 services, client applications and different (valid) network perimeter technologies. In this post I will mainly focus on the security implications of publishing ADFS through ISA or TMG Reverse Proxies in the place of ADFS Proxy servers. In the majority of our engagements we’ve considered this option (potentially allowing our clients to consolidate infrastructure) since ISA, TMG or similar Reverse Proxies are commonly deployed. Yet we need to evaluate with full awareness of how ADFS operates without a Claims-aware Reverse Proxy such as the ADFS Proxy. This gets pretty technical, so I’m assuming some high-level familiarity with ADFS, Reverse Proxies and Office 365.


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SharePoint 2007 administration part VI: Site administration

This is the final post in a six-part series on SharePoint 2007 administrative commands. So far I’ve covered:

In this post I will review Site-scoped administrative functions. Continue reading “SharePoint 2007 administration part VI: Site administration”