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.
- By Greg Neilson
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
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
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
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.