Reality Check

It goes without saying that Microsoft, with Active Directory and Windows Server 2003, is taking us to a point from which we will be unable to return. Of course, we asked for this in our quest to be liberated from the old norms to the promises of e-commerce, DNA, and an information-ruled network society.

While the technology presented herein is impressive, there are several caveats to consider. First, small companies will be able to install Windows Server 2003 far quicker than larger companies because the IT infrastructure of smaller companies is far less complex. A small Windows NT network is easier to convert than peeling a banana skin (provided you have supported hardware and current drivers). Installing Active Directory for domain authentication and security in a small business is a relatively painless procedure.

Small companies typically do not currently drive their internal networks on pure IP and DNS. They still use NetBEUI and NETBIOS, and rely on IP and DNS only when it is time to take a trip on the Web or get e-mail. Larger companies, especially those that have long ago seen the wisdom of pure IP networks, already have DNS servers and IP infrastructures in place. This means that existing DNS support is likely to come into conflict with two factors, Unix-based DNS servers and Unix-based DNS administrators (asking a Unix administrator to adopt Windows-based DNS is like asking a cat to bark).

Therefore, for some time to come, complex IT environments will likely run mixed networks (Windows NT, Windows 2000, NetWare, and Unix), and as long as NT domains (and Windows 9x clients) need to be supported, not all the wonders of Windows Server 2003 (such as SSO) can be accessible or appreciated. The entities that can most use the advanced features of Windows Server 2003 will mostly be the entities that take the longest to adopt the operating system or at least convert their domains to native Windows Server 2003. It all depends on the boldness of the people and the IT management at many firms.

Despite the enthusiasm for Active Directory, you need to be careful in your adoption strategy. The wish list for this directory-elect's next version already runs into dozens of pages at many organizations. The chapters in Part III are thus designed with these realities in mind.

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