In a Microsoft Windows network, the Active Directory(tm) provides the structure and functions for organizing, managing, and controlling network resources. Whereas in the legacy operating system NT 4.0, network management required the use of numerous different administrative tools, the Active Directory provides a centralized database and a common interface (the Microsoft Management Console or MMC). The Active Directory provides a whole new way of accomplishing administrative tasks and allows for far more granularity in delegating administrative authority. It also provides compatibility with other Lightweight Directory Protocol (LDAP)
directory services, allowing for interoperability in a variety of network environments. This module will teach you the role and structure of Active Directory. Mastering this material is not difficult, but it will take time. At the end of this module, you will be able to:
Since the inception of network operating systems, the people who are responsible for administering
and managing them have wanted an easy way to do so. Networks have gone through a natural
evolution from peer-to-peer networks to directory-based networks. Directory-based networks have
become the preferred type of network because they can ease an administrator’s workload.
To address the needs of organizations, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
developed a set of recommendations that defined how a directory service should address the needs of administrators and efficiently allow management of network resources. These recommendations, known as the X.500 recommendations
, were originally envisioned to include a large centralized directory that would encompass the entire world, divided by geopolitical boundaries. Even though
X.500 was written to handle a very large amount of data, designers reviewing the drafts of these recommendations
saw merit in the directory and soon the recommendations were adopted by several
companies, including the two best known, Novell and Microsoft.
Active Directory is Microsoft’s version of the X.500 recommendations. Battles rage between directory services camps, each one touting its directory service as the most efficient one. Because some of the directory services, such as Novell Directory Services (NDS) and eDirectory, have been around longer than Active Directory, those that are familiar with NDS will attack Active Directory.
Their attacks are usually focused on the idea that Active Directory does not perform functions the same way that NDS does.
When it is all said and done, companies that develop X.500-based directory services can interpret the recommendations and implement them to fit their design needs. Microsoft interpreted and employed the X.500 recommendations to effectively manage a Windows-based network. Novell did the same for a Novell-based network, and the two for years have been at odds over which is
more efficient. All that notwithstanding, Microsoft has enjoyed great success with Active Directory. It has been adopted by thousands of organizations and will more than likely continue to be used for many years to come.