Windows Server 8: Part 1—Active Directory

Slalom consultant and accomplished Microsoft systems developer Derek Martin sheds light on Windows Server 8 (WS8) through his insightful blog series focusing on his research within the technical preview documentation, personal experimentation with the product, and thoughts of how they can apply to the real world as soon as it is released to manufacturing (RTM).

One of the most stable and well designed pieces of software to come out of Microsoft–ever–is Active Directory. While its development was riddled with twists and turns (and the occasional run in with Novell), the identity platform for millions of businesses is a stalwart of stability. Few outside IT Administrators ever know of its existence–and that is the point. The basic ability to authenticate and gain access to corporate resources, be that a computer, a server or a file would not work without the consistent resiliency of this gorgeous database.

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

The biggest advantages of Active Directory over other products is its ubiquity. Microsoft has spent untold sums making it accessible and secure to a variety of applications, the entire MSFT stack included. It also is the underpinning of major infrastructural components of many software packages including Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and thousands of LoB applications. In recent versions, it has gained prominence in the realm of federation, enabling businesses to seamlessly federate their authentication and authorization stores using technologies like ADFS and Claims Authentication. The changes in WS8 around Active Directory continue to provide support for the major system components from previous versions (great backward compatibility) as well as the new features throughout Windows Server (describe later in this series) and support administrators by addressing common pain points. Here’s what’s new:

Simplified Deployment: Similar to Windows 8 Client where everything is touch first, in WS8 everything is PowerShell first! Deploying Active Directory is so much easier now that it can be accurately scripted.  All but the smallest companies have needs to deploy multitudes of AD servers.  In WS8, you can deploy Active Directory on multiple servers at once, export your graphical user interface  (GUI) based configuration to a series of PowerShell scripts and can clone brand new Domain Controllers (think sysprep on steroids) for rapid Active Directory forest topology builds.

Safer Virtualization Support: This exact issue has bitten me! What’s the cardinal sin with virtual machines and Active Directory? DON’T P2V a DC (without following very complex prescriptive processes). The dreaded rollback USN will bite you. Active Directory in WS8, however, recognizes that virtual domain controllers are what enterprises need, so they’ve built in additional replication logic to keep time synchronized with hosts and algorithms that keep things in check when they are virtualized.

These three updates with Active Directory, along with refined management experiences, new/simpler PowerShell commands will make administering your forest much easier. I’ll update this post as more information is learned about any of the underpinnings of Active Directory–I’m particularly interested to see if the schema has changed any!

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One Response to Windows Server 8: Part 1—Active Directory

  1. Pingback: Active Directory Sites – Best Practices « Nomadic Tech Commentaries

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