Managing Active Directory Forests in the Business Wilderness

It can be tough telling the forest from the trees when migrating to Windows Active Directory, which is why it's critical for administrators to dovetail the deployment of AD forests and domains with the business needs of their organizations.

By Jacqueline Emigh | Posted Sep 29, 2003
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A successful migration to Microsoft's Windows Active Directory (AD) calls for a team effort between business and technical managers. In setting up AD, it can sometimes be tough to tell the "forests" from the "trees," which is why pre-deployment planning is so important. Administrators should be careful to choose forest models that fit the business needs of their organizations.

Analyst firms have long recognized the need for sound planning in W2K AD deployments. "Aberdeen research indicates that several early adopters are now paying a high price for not including administration and management planning in the directory design process," wrote analysts at the Aberdeen Group, in a report issued back in the year 2000.

Active Directory planning should ideally be performed by a team of at least three people, advised Howard Marks, chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives, Inc., in a "best practices" session at the recent PC Expo/TechNYXpo in New York City. "You need a 'champion' to get approval from above and run interference with politics," says Marks. Other roles include a "technical architect," for defining business goals and overseeing technical decision-making, and a project manager, for keeping track of progress on the design timetable.

Marks told the story of a large consulting firm that was hired to help out an internal project team in an implementation at a manufacturing plant. The week after the consultants arrived, however, top brass at the manufacturing plant decided to close down the plant. Evidently, communications could have been a lot clearer between the internal project team and business managers.

What does the company want to do?

According to Marks, before assembling an implementation team, administrators should conduct a careful analysis of what the company wants to do.

  • First, identify the underlying business need.
    "This is the most difficult part," notes Marks.

  • Establish goals, constraints, and resource requirements.
    "I want 3,000 servers to be running overnight, with no downtime, and no use of consultants," he illustrates.

  • Agree on a project charter, approach, and timetable.

Page 2: Collecting Data

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