A look back at the launch of Active Directory

* After less than impressive start, AD turns out to be rousing success

Once again it's time to look back and see what we were talking about 10 years ago. And what we were talking about was the most highly anticipated launch in IdM history -- Microsoft's Active Directory.

On February 17, 2000, Active Directory was officially released as part of Windows Server 2000. Directory people (from Novell, Netscape and other places) denigrated the new offering. And, truth be told, I wasn't terribly impressed.

But it was version 1.0, and you know how that can be.

This newsletter carried stories about third-party management tools, including Mission Critical Software's OnePoint Operations Manager for Active Directory. According to Mission Critical (now part of NetIQ) officials, the new service "…will [would] enable IT personnel to automatically manage and monitor the availability, responsiveness and replication of Active Directory. It also automatically publishes critical management reports on domain configuration, replication topology, and events produced by Active Directory." Sounds like something we still need.

Novell was quick to point out what it deemed a security flaw in AD -- it was impossible to block the administrator from any files or folders. In retrospect, we might have paid more attention to that at the time and hastened the improvements in security and privacy that recent years have brought.

And then there were the "speed wars". Every directory service worthy of the name published test results showing they were "faster" then the competition. Sometimes they claimed faster reads, sometimes faster writes, but they were all definitely faster than the others. Microsoft and Novell even used the same test facility. As we said back then:

"Which is faster, Novell Directory Services or Microsoft's Active Directory? According to Keylabs, both are. It all depends on what you test.

"In the test that Microsoft wants you to read, Keylabs applied brute-force searches based on Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. By contrast, the test that Novell touts uses a so-called 'real world' mix of searches.

"Active Directory won when searching for all occurrences of a specific object, while Novell won when wild-card searches (also know as 'contains' searches) were used.

"An interesting sidelight is that Microsoft identifies Keylabs as a Novell-certified partner, while Novell calls it a 'registered Microsoft Certified Solution Partner.' Each wants you to think that it's "the other guy's" lab doing the testing."

Ah, the games vendors play! Some things never change, do they?

Active Directory turned out to be a rousing success. It's now in use at over 95% of Fortune 1000 companies and has found a place in the home as well. Ten years ago only the geekiest of the geeks had home networks but today you can find them in homes where the folks think RAM is a truck from Dodge and a hard disk is what caused grandpa's back troubles. And what's running those home networks is Windows and, often, Active Directory. Happy Anniversary, AD!

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