The Directory as Business Tool

Before diving into an Active Directory project, spend time with this book to understand the complexities of directories in general.

Both CIOs and IT architects will find Implementing Directory Services useful in planning and executing directory service projects within their organizations. Although specific directory products are mentioned when appropriate, the approach here is to realize that the directory needs to be considered a business tool and not just another hidden IT application. As the book points out, most of the current "hot" IT areas--email, e-commerce, enterprise security, workflow, the Internet, and client/server--rely on having a directory service implemented. Industry analysts quoted in the book have estimated the average Fortune 1000 has around 181 different directories implemented, and too often the temptation arises with new projects to create yet another new directory for that application alone.

In the interests of disclosure, I should point out that the author of the book, Archie Reed, is a friend. We worked together at a consulting firm in San Francisco, and he's a fellow Aussie. However, he doesn't have enough dirt on me to have me write anything here other than my own thoughts.

This book covers the general issues with directories and mentions vendor products where appropriate, but you won't get detailed information about specific offerings. Because of the interoperability needs of a directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is covered extensively, since it's expected that any directory solution implemented will provide access via LDAP.

The volume starts by explaining basic concepts on what a directory is and the main types of directories available. The sample project outline that's included could be a useful starting point for any organization considering a directory service project. Then the author discusses in detail the various stages of a directory project: initial analysis (which the book calls "discovery"), design of the directory, deployment, maintenance, and tools available for working with directories.

For CIOs (or for those who wish to influence CIOs), Chapter 3 covers the business of directory services and puts forward a compelling case for implementing them both for their strategic value within an IT infrastructure and in terms of eliminating the hidden costs of maintaining the information in all of the disparate directories.

Probably the most useful part of the book is Part IV, which offers some directory services case studies. Here you can learn the lessions from those who have already worked to implement directories within their organizations. This section makes for interesting reading. For instance, a Charles Schwab example cites the problem of having already implemented a Web-based white pages system before trying to get buy-in for a corporate directory project. Paradoxically, since that original project was successful, some of the benefits that would have been delivered by the later directory project were eliminated and justification for it became more difficult.

The appendices cover directory services terminology, the Directory Enabled Networks (DEN) initiative, and also directory standards. I found the discussion on LDAP searching valuable, since this covered the topic in more depth than the manuals for Domino R5, a product I'm working with at the moment. (Domino R5 implements LDAP 3.0 support and provides a stand-alone search tool, ldapsearch.exe, for performing LDAP searches).

A CD in the book includes trial versions of server and client directory products, as well as a number of white papers from industry analysts on the topic of directory services.

If you want to implement and design Active Directory solutions now that Windows 2000 has been released, I believe you'll find useful information here to ensure the success of your directory efforts.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.

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