In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the management of user identities has become a critical aspect of modern solutions. Gone are the days of relying on a single platform or a one-size-fits-all approach to authentication. With the advent of various platforms such as web and mobile, coupled with the diverse array of authentication methods available, it has become imperative to adopt efficient and sophisticated techniques for ensuring secure access to specific applications.
The reality is that modern solutions catering to external users, particularly customers, demand a contemporary approach to authentication and identity management. This involves implementing advanced systems that can seamlessly handle the complexities of multiple platforms and diverse authentication methods.
In this article, we discuss how Microsoft Entra External ID – next generation of Customer Identity and Access Management solution from Microsoft that helps building modern and secure solutions for customer identity management and authentication.
The Way Customers Authenticate Has Evolved Over Time
In the past, the only option for logging into a system was through a username and password. This process was simple: users would register by providing their profile information, usually including an email address as their username, and creating a password. However, things have changed significantly since then.
When it comes to customer-facing solutions, it’s important to recognize that users no longer want the inconvenience of managing multiple accounts to access their favorite resources, such as web portals, emails, and shopping sites. Instead, they desire a unified identity that seamlessly works across different solutions and applications. This evolving expectation highlights the importance of providing users with a cohesive experience that eliminates the need for redundant authentication procedures, granting them a streamlined and efficient means of accessing their desired services. It’s possible that you have come across login screens, like the one below, that offers a range of identity providers to choose from, enabling users to utilize existing accounts from services like Facebook or Google.
This is why Microsoft decided to move forward and work on the next generation Azure AD B2C product which is Microsoft Entra External ID for Customers. Let’s discover what it has to offer.
Microsoft Entra External ID for Customers – why?
Important question is why there is new platform released as there is already mature Azure AD B2C solution available. First of all it is important to know that Azure AD B2C is built on top of Azure Active Directory (now Microsoft Entra ID). It has a subset of features. The next important fact is that working with Azure AD B2C when implementing more advanced authentication flows is quite challenging as there is a need to implement XML files called custom policies. One more important fact is that Microsoft strongly invest in Microsoft Entra platform and would like to offer the same set of valuable features for both corporate and customer identities. CIAM capabilities are built into Microsoft Entra ID so we can benefit from platform features like enhanced security, compliance, and scalability. This is why for sure the future of CIAM is Microsoft Entra External ID for Customers.
Features available now in the new platform
Microsoft Entra External ID is now available for tests as free trial under this link. Below we will cover some of the currently available features which improve the customer authentication experience.
Branded login and registration pages
Azure AD B2C provides the ability to customize the look and feel of login, and registration pages which provides a deeper level of personalization for our customers. Here is an example of the branded login page for our Formula Healthcare demo solution:
It is worth mentioning that it is possible to adjust user attributes that we want to collect during the registration process.
Integration with social accounts
As previously mentioned, customers desire the flexibility to choose their preferred login options. Some may prefer using Facebook, while others may prefer a Google account. Enabling these options in our Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solution is crucial. Microsoft Entra External ID simplifies this process by providing easy configuration for integrating with popular social identity providers such as Facebook and Google. Once set up, customers can conveniently select their preferred identity on the login page, enhancing their overall authentication experience.
Easy integration with external systems
Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is not only about login and registration forms. It is more complex. When implementing a CIAM solution we have to stay compliant with many different kinds of regulations, like GDPR, CCPA, or HIPAA. This is where Microsoft Entra External ID can also help. We can integrate it with existing systems within an organization, like a CMS (Consent Management System). It is possible to call external system during user authentication to exchange some data and also include it in the token issued to the application.
By leveraging Microsoft Entra External ID, we can establish contemporary identity solutions for customer-facing applications.
More on the horizon…
Above we discussed only a subset of the features that will be supported in the new platform. Things like MFA with authenticator app, Passkey authentication, custom app branding or custom domain are planned to be available in the future. It will be exciting to see all these features in action to make customer authentication experience smoother and secure!
What about Azure AD B2C?
If you currently use Azure AD B2C you do not have to worry. Azure AD B2C stays here and there is no plan to drop its support. Here is the official statement from Microsoft:
Microsoft Entra External ID and Azure AD B2C are two separate platforms powered by ESTS and IEF respectively. Microsoft Entra External ID is our new converged platform which is future proof and developer friendly to meet all your identity needs – B2E, B2B and B2C. At the same time, we will still continue to support Azure AD B2C as a separate product offering with no change in SLA, and we’ll continue investments in the product to ensure security, availability, and reliability.
You can also ask when should you select new platform instead of Azure AD B2C. Choose Microsoft Entra External ID platform if:
- You’re starting fresh building identities into apps or you’re in the early stages of product discovery.
- The benefits of rapid innovation, new features and capabilities are a priority.
We invite you to the webinar
At Formula5 we have already started exploring the new platform. We would like to invite you to the webinar we organize during which we will talk about new platform – Microsoft Entra External ID for Customers.
Join us to gain valuable insights into the future of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) with Microsoft Entra:
📍 Discover how Microsoft Entra External ID can revolutionize CIAM for businesses of all sizes.
📍 Learn about seamless integration with Microsoft’s ecosystem and beyond.
📍 Get insights on best practices for securing customer data and improving user experiences.
📍 Discover advanced authentication and security features.
We hope to see you there!
In conclusion, Microsoft Entra External ID platform represents the future of CIAM for Microsoft, and rapid innovation, new features and capabilities will be focused on this platform. By choosing the next generation platform, we will receive the benefits of rapid innovation and a future-proof architecture.
At Formula5, we understand that deploying and managing a Customer Identity and Access Management platform can be challenging, especially without specialized knowledge. That’s why we provide assistance to our clients with all things related to Azure AD B2C and Microsoft Entra External ID. We are also happy to support you with doing Proof of Concept leveraging new platform. Please contact us using this form if you need our help.