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Microsoft Infrastructure to add Preferred Name data: 3/1/2017

February 17, 2017

The Microsoft Infrastructure service will add the Preferred Name data source to its existing identity data.


What and When


On Wednesday March 1 2017, Microsoft Infrastructure will replace its existing identity data agent with a new one. The new system will add the Preferred Name data source to the existing name algorithm, giving Preferred Name preference over other data sources. We will also drop our specialized character casing for non-personal UW NetIDs like Shared UW NetIDs. These changes will result in display name changes on a broad set of user accounts in the NETID Active Directory and the Azure Active Directory tenant. Because there are many applications leveraging those user accounts, this will also result in name changes in a large set of applications.


There should be no noticeable interruption to implement this change—we have staged the replacement system so it can immediately take over for the old one.


What This Means For You


Your Microsoft Infrastructure user account’s display name value may change if you have set a Preferred Name via the portal. If you do not like the resulting display name value for your personal UW NetID, you can use that portal to set or update a Preferred Name.

If you want a change to a non-personal UW NetID name, you can use and the Name field exposed there to change the value yourself. You do not need to contact the UW-IT service desk for those changes.

In the past, we applied an algorithm to only upper case the first character of “words” from that data source. This would often result in a display name like “Uw Pottery Department” instead of “UW Pottery Department”. This has been a source of frustration for some customers, so we are removing the case adjustments and using the value as input by the UW-IT Service Desk (which is based on your input). If the display name changes to non-personal UW NetIDs are undesired, you can contact the UW-IT Service Desk to make changes.


**NOTE: Exchange, Sharepoint, Skype for Business, and other applications in the Office 365 suite leverage the display name on the Microsoft Infrastructure user account, so this change affects your name in all of those applications. There are many other applications which do their UW NetID identity integration via Microsoft Infrastructure user accounts, and those applications will also be affected.**


More Info


The approach to name data at the UW is complicated because there are many different user populations with a different data source for each population. And of course, each of those data sources has different methods to make changes to the data. This means that any given application (and infrastructure like ours), must make a number of complex decisions about which name data to use, which can be especially complicated when a given identity has multiple affiliations. In contrast, the Preferred Name data source is unique in that it is a single central authority for name data for UW identities, and provides a self-service mechanism for changes.


Because of this complex background, Microsoft Infrastructure has always documented the algorithm behind our naming logic, so everyone can understand what we are doing and how they might change what they see. This documentation continues to be at, and has been updated to reflect this change with deeper details than noted here. Up until this change, there have been a number of scenarios where there was literally nothing you could do to change the display name on an identity. I’m happy to report that is no longer the case.


Via a customer survey 8 years ago, you indicated this was your top desired change for this service, and we have been advocating for this type of solution for that entire time, so we are very pleased to be able to implement this.


If you have questions about this change, please send an email to with “Microsoft Infrastructure Preferred Name change” in the subject.


Brian Arkills

Microsoft Infrastructure service manager