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Check out Active Directory's new clothes for Windows 2003

A look at the key changes to Microsoft Active Directory with the release of Windows Server 2003, including improvements to integration, scalability and configuration management.

Active Directory has come a long way since its introduction in Windows 2000 Server. In Windows Server 2003, Active Directory has finally come of age and shown itself to be the mature technology it has always been hyped to be. Microsoft has released a detailed paper on the state of Active Directory in Windows Server 2003. I'll give you a quick overview of this document, but you might want to read it over yourself.

The paper discusses the new features and improvements built into Windows Server 2003's Active Directory by focusing on five areas.

The first area is integration and productivity. Here Microsoft has simplified both use and management. Some specific changes include: the abilities to edit multiple AD objects simultaneously, save AD queries and integrate with Passport; improved interoperability via inetOrgPerson for Novell and Netscape solutions; and replication monitoring.

The second area is performance and scalability. One of the biggest changes here is eliminating the need to contact a global catalog (GC) server each time a user logs in. Now, the GC information is cached at the local DC. Other enhancements include support for clustered virtual servers, DC overload prevention and GC replication tuning controls.

The third area is administration and configuration management. An improved AD installation and configuration wizard helps fine-tune a DC to the exact needs of your environment. Furthermore, Microsoft has added automated DNS zone creation, improved inter-site replication and improved migration tools. With Windows Server 2003 Active Directory, you can even rename domains!

The fourth area is group policy features. Windows Server 2003 has greatly improved the group policy management interface, which is able to interact with both 2003 and 2000 GPOs. Other improvements include GPO results reports, over 150 new GPO controls and improved client management features.

The fifth area is security enhancements. New security features include forest trusts, trusted namespaces, cross-forest authentication and authorization, and a credential manager.

James Michael Stewart is a partner and researcher for ITinfopros, a technology-focused writing and training organization.

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