What’s New in Windows Server 2016 Federation Services?

The corporate environment requires many collaboration application services to promote a seamless workflow environment. Windows Server 2016 represents major steps towards an environment that supports cloud features and an improved level of security and innovations. Some of the improvements found in Windows Server 2016 include:

  • Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS)
  • Microsoft IP Address Management (IPAM)
  • Conditional Access
  • Temporary group membership

Our main concern will be to highlight the new things Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) bring into a Windows Server 2016 network environment.

Active Directory Federation Services gives access to single Logons across the entire network on a different application such as Office 365, SaaS applications, and other cloud-based applications.

In general, the IT department can enforce Logons and access controls to both modern and legacy software. The user benefits by accessing a seamless Login using the same account credential and the developers will also have an easy time managing running applications because the authentication process is handled by the federation services.

Here are some of the new features that came with Windows Server 2016 Federation Service:

Eliminate the Use of Passwords on A Private Network

Active Directory Federation Services gives three possibilities for Logons without passwords. This eliminates the risk of the network being compromised by leaked or stolen passwords.

Using Azure Authentication Features

Federation 2016 services are based on Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) that allows signing in using an Azure MFA code without the need to key in the username and password. The user will be prompted for a username and a one-time password (OTP) code for authentication.

When the MFA code is used as an additional authentication method, the user will be prompted to give the usual authentication credentials and later on prompted for text, OTP, or a voice password before logging in.

Setting a Federation Service to work with Azure MFA is now simple because organizations will implement Azure without the need of having a physical Azure server location. Azure can be configured to work in both local and private networks or be incorporated within an access control policy of the organization.

Allowing Password-less Access

Active Directory Federation Services 2016 uses device configuration capabilities to allow access on network-based devices. Users log in using the devices and its validity tested for attribute changes to maintain the integrity of the device and network security. Use of accepted devices ensures that granted access is granted to specific devices, private network access is only accepted via managed devices, and authentication requires several steps for any non-compliant computer or devices.

Using Windows Hello for Business Credentials

Workstations using the Windows 10 Operating System have an inbuilt Windows Hello and Windows Hello for Business. The credentials used are protected by gestures such as fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, etc. Using the Windows 10 capabilities means that users can sign in to a Federation Server 2016 without the need of a password.

Secure Access to Applications

Windows Server 2016 Federation Services works with the latest modem protocols to offer a better experience to Windows 10, Android, and iOS users.

Some access control policies can be changed without necessarily having the knowledge of the claim rules language. This made it almost impossible to configure and maintain policies. Using Federation Services, one can simply use built-in templates to be applied in common policies such as:

  • Limit access to Local Area Network only
  • Allow everyone to access the server and ask for an MFA from private networks
  • Allow everyone to access the server and ask for an MFA from a specific group

Using templates is recommended because they are easy to customize and add exceptions or additional policies that can be applied to one or many applications.

Allow Logons without Active Directory Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Directories

Most firms use Active Directories alongside third-party directories for Logons. The introduction of Federation Services allows for the authentication of users whose credentials are stored in LDAP. This further helps third-party users whose data are stored in LDAP v3 compliant directories, also works with users in a forest with an Active Directory that has its two-way trust not configured. Users found in Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services are able to sign in.

Flawless Sign-in Experience

All applications using Active Directory Federation Services give users ability to customize Login experience. This is more appropriate for organizations dealing with various companies and brands. In previous editions, there was a common sign-on experience with customization facility available only for a single application. The Windows Server 2016 gives you the ability to customize messages, images, web themes, and logos. Additional customized web pages can be created for every business platform.

Improved Management and System Operations

Streamlined Auditing

Auditing is streamlined in Active Directory Federation Services 2016, unlike the previous versions where every single vent necessitated an event log.

Improved Interoperability with Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML 2.0)

Additional SAML protocols that support trusts importation with multiple entries are found in Active Federation Services 2016. This allows for the configuration of Active Directory to be part of confederations and implementations that conform to the eGov 2.0 standard.

Simple Password Management for Office 365 Users

Active Directory Federation Services enable password configuration that allows sending of password expiry claims within protected applications. For instance, Office 365 users rely on updates implemented via Exchange and Outlook to get notifications on the expiry status of their passwords.

Migration from AD FS Windows Server 2012 to AD FS Windows Server 2016 Made Easier

Previous editions demanded that configurations be exported from the old farm and importing into the new farm. When moving from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2016, adding a new Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2012 and eventually adding Windows Server 2012 to the farm by verifying functionalities and removing the old server from the load balancer. The new features are ready to use once Windows Server 2016 is running and upgraded to farm behavior level 2016.

Conclusion

Federation Services help in managing identities across different networks and as such forms the foundation of cybersecurity in the cloud world. With this information, it is time to optimize your Active Directory environment by giving it a new design and restructure it before migrating to the latest Windows Server 2016 Federation Services.

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