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Microsoft Previews Building Authentication Processes into Apps with Visual Studio App Center Auth

Microsoft on Thursday announced an "early preview" of Visual Studio App Center Auth, which lets developers build user authentication processes into their applications.

Visual Studio App Center is a solution that provides automation and lifecycle management capabilities for developers building applications. It works with applications built for Android, iOS, macOS and Windows machines, and previously was known by the "Mobile Center" name.

The new Auth addition to Visual Studio App Center is based on using the Azure Active Directory B2C (Business to Consumer) identity authentication service, which is used to address scalability issues. Visual Studio App Center Auth leverages the Microsoft Identity Platform 2.0, which is Microsoft's newly announced replacement for Azure Active Directory 1.0.

In particular, Visual Studio App Center Auth taps the Microsoft Authentication Library (MSAL), an open source library for single sign-on and passwordless authentications. MSAL serves as a replacement for the current Azure Active Directory Library (ADAL).

MSAL and ADAL integrate with different endpoints. Using MSAL particularly lets developers leverage both personal and work accounts when adding user authentications to apps, according to this Microsoft document description:

Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL) integrates with the Azure AD for developers (v1.0) endpoint, where MSAL integrates with the Microsoft identity platform (v2.0) endpoint. The v1.0 endpoint supports work accounts, but not personal accounts. The v2.0 endpoint is the unification of Microsoft personal accounts and work accounts into a single authentication system. Additionally, with MSAL you can also get authentications for Azure AD B2C.

The authentication flow for applications using MSAL is shown in this Microsoft diagram:

[Click on image for larger view.] Identity authentication flow for apps tapping the Microsoft Authentication Library (MSAL) and the Azure Active Directory B2C service, and using a Facebook social media ID. (Source: Microsoft blog)

Organizations wanting to use Visual Studio App Center Auth will need to have an Azure subscription. They'll also need to be using the Azure AD B2C service. There's a five-step wizard process to set it up.

Microsoft is planning to add support for the use of other identity provider services with Visual Studio App Center Auth in a future release. It's also planning to simplify the setup so that organizations will be able to create their own Azure AD B2C tenant within Visual Studio App Center. There also are plans to support enterprise Azure AD scenarios, such as "authentication against a corporate domain and managing access to sensitive data."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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