NetWare to Windows 2000: Making The Leap

By Dominique Deckmyn, Computerworld |  Operating Systems

A technical staff well-versed in NDS could give companies a head start in rolling out Active Directory, says Poole. "The first thing to understand is Windows 2000 at its most basic level is pretty compatible, philosophically, with NetWare 4 and NetWare 5," says Poole. "People who understand NetWare and NDS are more than technically qualified to be leaders in Windows 2000 migration."

Frost says he had expected to take some heat from NetWare administrators. But they are leading the charge toward implementing Active Directory. NT administrators, though, are having a harder time adapting. "From NT to Windows 2000, that's a huge shift in how things work," he says.

But NDS and Active Directory still have many differences. NDS can be partitioned, but every Active Directory server runs a complete version of the directory tree. And while both directories allow permissions to be "inherited" from parent directories higher in the directory tree, both implement inheritance in a different way -- making a straightforward transfer of administrative permissions and file permissions impossible.

"Some people want to move everything over into [Active Directory], and that's typically not the best way to go," advises Microsoft Consulting Services senior consultant Matt Finger, who works with customers in the design and pilot phases of Windows 2000 migrations. "You need to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. You are migrating data out of the directory, but the way it is laid out is different."

At West TeleServices, Duros chose to build a new Active Directory tree in parallel with NDS rather than attempt a complete migration. (Coexistence is indeed possible: Novell offers its DirXML tool for synchronizing NDS with Active Directory.) Duros says he wasn't particularly happy with the NDS tree and he wanted to re-evaluate network permissions.

But at the DSHS, the existing NDS tree structure was merely "cleaned up" when it was transferred to Active Directory -- and the NetWare administrators were given control over that part of the tree, says Frost.

Another problem typically encountered in any Windows 2000 migration involves applications. "Most [Windows] applications are compatible," says Duros, "but we ran into some 'gotchas' with homegrown apps."

One Step at a Time

IT managers with NetWare-to-Windows 2000 migration projects still in the planning phases may take some comfort in knowing that none of the companies Computerworld interviewed had encountered any major problems, and all expected a reasonably uneventful -- though slow and painstaking -- move. In the end, it seems, slow and steady wins the race. "By taking it in a phased approach, we avoided a lot of pain," says Duros, who now has 1,000 users on Windows 2000 and Active Directory. "Department by department, small steps -- resolve your issues and move on."

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