Migrate from the Azure Access Control service

Azure Access Control, a service of Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), will be retired on November 7, 2018. Applications and services that currently use Access Control must be fully migrated to a different authentication mechanism by then. This article describes recommendations for current customers, as you plan to deprecate your use of Access Control. If you don't currently use Access Control, you don't need to take any action.

Overview

Access Control is a cloud authentication service that offers an easy way to authenticate and authorize users for access to your web applications and services. It allows many features of authentication and authorization to be factored out of your code. Access Control is primarily used by developers and architects of Microsoft .NET clients, ASP.NET web applications, and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) web services.

Use cases for Access Control can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Authenticating to certain Microsoft cloud services, including Azure Service Bus and Dynamics CRM. Client applications obtain tokens from Access Control to authenticate to these services to perform various actions.
  • Adding authentication to web applications, both custom and prepackaged (like SharePoint). By using Access Control "passive" authentication, web applications can support sign-in with a Microsoft account (formerly Live ID), and with accounts from Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Azure AD, and Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS).
  • Securing custom web services with tokens issued by Access Control. By using "active" authentication, web services can ensure that they allow access only to known clients that have authenticated with Access Control.

Each of these use cases and their recommended migration strategies are discussed in the following sections.

Warning

In most cases, significant code changes are required to migrate existing apps and services to newer technologies. We recommend that you immediately begin planning and executing your migration to avoid any potential outages or downtime.

Access Control has the following components:

  • A secure token service (STS), which receives authentication requests and issues security tokens in return.
  • The Azure classic portal, where you create, delete, and enable and disable Access Control namespaces.
  • A separate Access Control management portal, where you customize and configure Access Control namespaces.
  • A management service, which you can use to automate the functions of the portals.
  • A token transformation rule engine, which you can use to define complex logic to manipulate the output format of tokens that Access Control issues.

To use these components, you must create one or more Access Control namespaces. A namespace is a dedicated instance of Access Control that your applications and services communicate with. A namespace is isolated from all other Access Control customers. Other Access Control customers use their own namespaces. A namespace in Access Control has a dedicated URL that looks like this:

https://<mynamespace>.accesscontrol.windows.net

All communication with the STS and management operations are done at this URL. You use different paths for different purposes. To determine whether your applications or services use Access Control, monitor for any traffic to https://<namespace>.accesscontrol.windows.net. Any traffic to this URL is handled by Access Control, and needs to be discontinued.

The exception to this is any traffic to https://accounts.accesscontrol.windows.net. Traffic to this URL is already handled by a different service and is not affected by the Access Control deprecation.

For more information about Access Control, see Access Control Service 2.0 (archived).

Retirement schedule

As of November 2017, all Access Control components are fully supported and operational. The only restriction is that you can't create new Access Control namespaces via the Azure classic portal.

Here's the schedule for deprecating Access Control components:

  • November 2017: The Azure AD admin experience in the Azure classic portal is retired. At this point, namespace management for Access Control is available at a new, dedicated URL: http://manage.windowsazure.com?restoreClassic=true. Use this URl to view your existing namespaces, enable and disable namespaces, and to delete namespaces, if you choose to.
  • April 2, 2018: The Azure classic portal is completely retired, meaning Access Control namespace management is no longer available via any URL. At this point, you can't disable or enable, delete, or enumerate your Access Control namespaces. However, the Access Control management portal will be fully functional and located at https://\<namespace\>.accesscontrol.windows.net. All other components of Access Control continue to operate normally.
  • November 7, 2018: All Access Control components are permanently shut down. This includes the Access Control management portal, the management service, STS, and the token transformation rule engine. At this point, any requests sent to Access Control (located at <namespace>.accesscontrol.windows.net) fail. You should have migrated all existing apps and services to other technologies well before this time.

Migration strategies

The following sections describe high-level recommendations for migrating from Access Control to other Microsoft technologies.

Clients of Microsoft cloud services

Each Microsoft cloud service that accepts tokens that are issued by Access Control now supports at least one alternate form of authentication. The correct authentication mechanism varies for each service. We recommend that you refer to the specific documentation for each service for official guidance. For convenience, each set of documentation is provided here:

Service Guidance
Azure Service Bus Migrate to shared access signatures
Azure Service Bus Relay Migrate to shared access signatures
Azure Managed Cache Migrate to Azure Redis Cache
Azure DataMarket Migrate to the Cognitive Services APIs
BizTalk Services Migrate to the Logic Apps feature of Azure App Service
Azure Media Services Migrate to Azure AD authentication
Azure Backup Upgrade the Azure Backup agent

SharePoint customers

SharePoint 2013, 2016, and SharePoint Online customers have long used ACS for authentication purposes in cloud, on-prem, and hybrid scenarios. Some SharePoint features and use cases will be affected by ACS retirement, while others will not. The below table summarizes migration guidance for some of the most popular SharePoint feature that leverage ACS:

Feature Guidance
Authenticating users from Azure AD Previously, Azure AD did not support SAML 1.1 tokens required by SharePoint for authentication, and ACS was used as an intermediary that made SharePoint compatibile with Azure AD token formats. Now, you can connect SharePoint directly to Azure AD using token issuance policies.
App authentication & server-to-server authentication in SharePoint on-prem Not affected by ACS retirement; no changes necessary.
Low trust authorization for SharePoint add-ins (provider hosted and SharePoint hosted) Not affected by ACS retirement; no changes necessary.
SharePoint cloud hybrid search Not affected by ACS retirement; no changes necessary.

Web applications that use passive authentication

For web applications that use Access Control for user authentication, Access Control provides the following features and capabilities to web application developers and architects:

  • Deep integration with Windows Identity Foundation (WIF).
  • Federation with Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Azure Active Directory, and AD FS accounts, and Microsoft accounts.
  • Support for the following authentication protocols: OAuth 2.0 Draft 13, WS-Trust, and Web Services Federation (WS-Federation).
  • Support for the following token formats: JSON Web Token (JWT), SAML 1.1, SAML 2.0, and Simple Web Token (SWT).
  • A home realm discovery experience, integrated into WIF, that allows users to pick the type of account they use to sign in. This experience is hosted by the web application and is fully customizable.
  • Token transformation that allows rich customization of the claims received by the web application from Access Control, including:
    • Pass through claims from identity providers.
    • Adding additional custom claims.
    • Simple if-then logic to issue claims under certain conditions.

Unfortunately, there isn't one service that offers all of these equivalent capabilities. You should evaluate which capabilities of Access Control you need, and then choose between using Azure Active Directory, Azure Active Directory B2C (Azure AD B2C), or another cloud authentication service.

Migrate to Azure Active Directory

A path to consider is integrating your apps and services directly with Azure AD. Azure AD is the cloud-based identity provider for Microsoft work or school accounts. Azure AD is the identity provider for Office 365, Azure, and much more. It provides similar federated authentication capabilities to Access Control, but doesn't support all Access Control features.

The primary example is federation with social identity providers, such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. If your users sign in with these types of credentials, Azure AD is not the solution for you.

Azure AD also doesn't necessarily support the exact same authentication protocols as Access Control. For example, although both Access Control and Azure AD support OAuth, there are subtle differences between each implementation. Different implementations require you to modify code as part of a migration.

However, Azure AD does provide several potential advantages to Access Control customers. It natively supports Microsoft work or school accounts hosted in the cloud, which are commonly used by Access Control customers.

An Azure AD tenant can also be federated to one or more instances of on-premises Active Directory via AD FS. This way, your app can authenticate cloud-based users and users that are hosted on-premises. It also supports the WS-Federation protocol, which makes it relatively straightforward to integrate with a web application by using WIF.

The following table compares the features of Access Control that are relevant to web applications with those features that are available in Azure AD.

At a high level, Azure Active Directory is probably the best choice for your migration if you let users sign in only with their Microsoft work or school accounts.

Capability Access Control support Azure AD support
Types of accounts
Microsoft work or school accounts Supported Supported
Accounts from Windows Server Active Directory and AD FS - Supported via federation with an Azure AD tenant
- Supported via direct federation with AD FS
Only supported via federation with an Azure AD tenant
Accounts from other enterprise identity management systems - Possible via federation with an Azure AD tenant
- Supported via direct federation
Possible via federation with an Azure AD tenant
Microsoft accounts for personal use Supported Supported via the Azure AD v2.0 OAuth protocol, but not over any other protocols
Facebook, Google, Yahoo accounts Supported Not supported whatsoever
Protocols and SDK compatibility
WIF Supported Supported, but limited instructions are available
WS-Federation Supported Supported
OAuth 2.0 Support for Draft 13 Support for RFC 6749, the most modern specification
WS-Trust Supported Not supported
Token formats
JWT Supported In Beta Supported
SAML 1.1 Supported Preview
SAML 2.0 Supported Supported
SWT Supported Not supported
Customizations
Customizable home realm discovery/account-picking UI Downloadable code that can be incorporated into apps Not supported
Upload custom token-signing certificates Supported Supported
Customize claims in tokens - Pass through input claims from identity providers
- Get access token from identity provider as a claim
- Issue output claims based on values of input claims
- Issue output claims with constant values
- Cannot pass through claims from federated identity providers
- Cannot get access token from identity provider as a claim
- Cannot issue output claims based on values of input claims
- Can issue output claims with constant values
- Can issue output claims based on properties of users synced to Azure AD
Automation
Automate configuration and management tasks Supported via Access Control Management Service Supported via Microsoft Graph and Azure AD Graph API

If you decide that Azure AD is the best migration path for your applications and services, you should be aware of two ways to integrate your app with Azure AD.

To use WS-Federation or WIF to integrate with Azure AD, we recommend following the approach described in Configure federated single sign-on for a non-gallery application. The article refers to configuring Azure AD for SAML-based single sign-on, but also works for configuring WS-Federation. Following this approach requires an Azure AD Premium license. This approach has two advantages:

  • You get the full flexibility of Azure AD token customization. You can customize the claims that are issued by Azure AD to match the claims that are issued by Access Control. This especially includes the user ID or Name Identifier claim. To continue to receive consistent user IDentifiers for your users after you change technologies, ensure that the user IDs issued by Azure AD match those issued by Access Control.
  • You can configure a token-signing certificate that is specific to your application, and with a lifetime that you control.

Note

This approach requires an Azure AD Premium license. If you are an Access Control customer and you require a premium license for setting up single-sign on for an application, contact us. We'll be happy to provide developer licenses for you to use.

An alternative approach is to follow this code sample, which gives slightly different instructions for setting up WS-Federation. This code sample does not use WIF, but rather, the ASP.NET 4.5 OWIN middleware. However, the instructions for app registration are valid for apps using WIF, and don't require an Azure AD Premium license.

If you choose this approach, you need to understand signing key rollover in Azure AD. This approach uses the Azure AD global signing key to issue tokens. By default, WIF does not automatically refresh signing keys. When Azure AD rotates its global signing keys, your WIF implementation needs to be prepared to accept the changes.

If you can integrate with Azure AD via the OpenID Connect or OAuth protocols, we recommend doing so. We have extensive documentation and guidance about how to integrate Azure AD into your web application available in our Azure AD developer guide.

Migrate to Azure Active Directory B2C

The other migration path to consider is Azure AD B2C. Azure AD B2C is a cloud authentication service that, like Access Control, allows developers to outsource their authentication and identity management logic to a cloud service. It's a paid service (with free and premium tiers) that is designed for consumer-facing applications that might have up to millions of active users.

Like Access Control, one of the most attractive features of Azure AD B2C is that it supports many different types of accounts. With Azure AD B2C, you can sign in users by using their Microsoft account, or Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, GitHub, or Yahoo accounts, and more. Azure AD B2C also supports "local accounts," or username and passwords that users create specifically for your application. Azure AD B2C also provides rich extensibility that you can use to customize your sign-in flows.

However, Azure AD B2C doesn't support the breadth of authentication protocols and token formats that Access Control customers might require. You also can't use Azure AD B2C to get tokens and query for additional information about the user from the identity provider, Microsoft or otherwise.

The following table compares the features of Access Control that are relevant to web applications with those that are available in Azure AD B2C. At a high level, Azure AD B2C is probably the right choice for your migration if your application is consumer facing, or if it supports many different types of accounts.

Capability Access Control support Azure AD B2C support
Types of accounts
Microsoft work or school accounts Supported Supported via custom policies
Accounts from Windows Server Active Directory and AD FS Supported via direct federation with AD FS Supported via SAML federation by using custom policies
Accounts from other enterprise identity management systems Supported via direct federation through WS-Federation Supported via SAML federation by using custom policies
Microsoft accounts for personal use Supported Supported
Facebook, Google, Yahoo accounts Supported Facebook and Google supported natively, Yahoo supported via OpenID Connect federation by using custom policies
Protocols and SDK compatibility
Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) Supported Not supported
WS-Federation Supported Not supported
OAuth 2.0 Support for Draft 13 Support for RFC 6749, the most modern specification
WS-Trust Supported Not supported
Token formats
JWT Supported In Beta Supported
SAML 1.1 Supported Not supported
SAML 2.0 Supported Not supported
SWT Supported Not supported
Customizations
Customizable home realm discovery/account-picking UI Downloadable code that can be incorporated into apps Fully customizable UI via custom CSS
Upload custom token-signing certificates Supported Custom signing keys, not certificates, supported via custom policies
Customize claims in tokens - Pass through input claims from identity providers
- Get access token from identity provider as a claim
- Issue output claims based on values of input claims
- Issue output claims with constant values
- Can pass through claims from identity providers; custom policies required for some claims
- Cannot get access token from identity provider as a claim
- Can issue output claims based on values of input claims via custom policies
- Can issue output claims with constant values via custom policies
Automation
Automate configuration and management tasks Supported via Access Control Management Service - Creation of users allowed via Azure AD Graph API
- Cannot create B2C tenants, applications, or policies programmatically

If you decide that Azure AD B2C is the best migration path for your applications and services, begin with the following resources:

Migrate to Ping Identity or Auth0

In some cases, you might find that Azure AD and Azure AD B2C aren't sufficient to replace Access Control in your web applications without making major code changes. Some common examples might include:

  • Web applications that use WIF or WS-Federation for sign-in with social identity providers such as Google or Facebook.
  • Web applications that perform direct federation to an enterprise identity provider over the WS-Federation protocol.
  • Web applications that require the access token issued by a social identity provider (such as Google or Facebook) as a claim in the tokens issued by Access Control.
  • Web applications with complex token transformation rules that Azure AD or Azure AD B2C can't reproduce.
  • Multi-tenant web applications that use ACS to centrally manage federation to many different identity providers

In these cases, you might want to consider migrating your web application to another cloud authentication service. We recommend exploring the following options. Each of the following options offer capabilities similar to Access Control:

Auth0 Auth0 is a flexible cloud identity service that has created high-level migration guidance for customers of Access Control, and supports nearly every feature that ACS does.
Ping Ping Identity offers two solutions similar to ACS. PingOne is a cloud identity service that supports many of the same features as ACS, and PingFederate is a similar on-prem identity product that offers more flexibility. Refer to Ping's ACS retirement guidance for more details on using these products.

Our aim in working with Ping Identity and Auth0 is to ensure that all Access Control customers have a migration path for their apps and services that minimizes the amount of work required to move from Access Control.

Web services that use active authentication

For web services that are secured with tokens issued by Access Control, Access Control offers the following features and capabilities:

  • Ability to register one or more service identities in your Access Control namespace. Service identities can be used to request tokens.
  • Support for the OAuth WRAP and OAuth 2.0 Draft 13 protocols for requesting tokens, by using the following types of credentials:
    • A simple password that's created for the service identity
    • A signed SWT by using a symmetric key or X509 certificate
    • A SAML token issued by a trusted identity provider (typically, an AD FS instance)
  • Support for the following token formats: JWT, SAML 1.1, SAML 2.0, and SWT.
  • Simple token transformation rules.

Service identities in Access Control are typically used to implement server-to-server authentication.

Migrate to Azure Active Directory

Our recommendation for this type of authentication flow is to migrate to Azure Active Directory. Azure AD is the cloud-based identity provider for Microsoft work or school accounts. Azure AD is the identity provider for Office 365, Azure, and much more.

You can also use Azure AD for server-to-server authentication by using the Azure AD implementation of the OAuth client credentials grant. The following table compares the capabilities of Access Control in server-to-server authentication with those that are available in Azure AD.

Capability Access Control support Azure AD support
How to register a web service Create a relying party in the Access Control management portal Create an Azure AD web application in the Azure portal
How to register a client Create a service identity in Access Control management portal Create another Azure AD web application in the Azure portal
Protocol used - OAuth WRAP protocol
- OAuth 2.0 Draft 13 client credentials grant
OAuth 2.0 client credentials grant
Client authentication methods - Simple password
- Signed SWT
- SAML token from a federated identity provider
- Simple password
- Signed JWT
Token formats - JWT
- SAML 1.1
- SAML 2.0
- SWT
JWT only
Token transformation - Add custom claims
- Simple if-then claim issuance logic
Add custom claims
Automate configuration and management tasks Supported via Access Control Management Service Supported via Microsoft Graph and Azure AD Graph API

For guidance about implementing server-to-server scenarios, see the following resources:

Migrate to Ping Identity or Auth0

In some cases, you might find that the Azure AD client credentials and the OAuth grant implementation aren't sufficient to replace Access Control in your architecture without major code changes. Some common examples might include:

  • Server-to-server authentication using token formats other than JWTs.
  • Server-to-server authentication using an input token provided by an external identity provider.
  • Server-to-server authentication with token transformation rules that Azure AD cannot reproduce.

In these cases, you might consider migrating your web application to another cloud authentication service. We recommend exploring the following options. Each of the following options offer capabilities similar to Access Control:

Auth0 Auth0 is a flexible cloud identity service that has created high-level migration guidance for customers of Access Control, and supports nearly every feature that ACS does.
Ping Ping Identity offers two solutions similar to ACS. PingOne is a cloud identity service that supports many of the same features as ACS, and PingFederate is a similar on-prem identity product that offers more flexibility. Refer to Ping's ACS retirement guidance for more details on using these products.

Our aim in working with Ping Identity and Auth0 is to ensure that all Access Control customers have a migration path for their apps and services that minimizes the amount of work required to move from Access Control.

Questions, concerns, and feedback

We understand that many Access Control customers won't find a clear migration path after reading this article. You might need some assistance or guidance in determining the right plan. If you would like to discuss your migration scenarios and questions, please leave a comment on this page.