Directory Service Coexistence: Can We Talk Here?

By Alan Radding, Computer World |  Development

A world with one directory? Forget it. Call it directory diversity. Companies are struggling to maintain a mix of directory services, including Novell Directory Services (NDS), Windows NT, Windows 2000's Active Directory (AD) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) services. And if that weren't enough, IT managers must contend with a slew of other directory-enabled applications, such as Lotus Notes.

This proliferation creates challenges for IT managers who must plan a coherent directory strategy and for administrators who must wrestle with adding, deleting and modifying users. While the benefits of a single directory -- reduced overhead and ease of administration -- are clear, IT managers say the likelihood that large organizations will be able to standardize anytime soon is small. For now, your best bet may be to combine directory administration for efficiency.

A Slow Consolidation

"We're going to move from NDS to AD at some point, but it isn't happening fast," says Mark Thorsen, network services manager at the New York Times Shared Service Center in Norfolk, Va., which provides IT services to The New York Times Co.'s business units. Slowing the transition is the usual resistance to change, as well as the time it takes to resolve organizational and technical issues.

For example, the service center uses MetaFrame from Citrix Systems Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to give application access to remote and mobile users. Although MetaFrame runs on Windows NT, it writes passwords differently, which complicates the process of integrating those users into NDS and AD, Thorsen says. So the center must straddle two directory worlds.

Campbell Soup Co. in Camden, N.J., is in a similar situation. Although the company is migrating from NDS to AD, "we are not rushing. We want to see how this works out," says Mike Giresi, director of global communications. In the meantime, the company must administer both NDS and AD, as well as a Lotus Notes infrastructure and human resources software that needs to be tied into whatever corporate directory emerges.

Administering multiple directories is a labor-intensive, tedious chore. "We have a couple of people who do nothing but maintain the directories," Giresi says. Administrators must handle changes manually in the various directories using different tools.

Hellmann Worldwide Logistics Inc., a Miami-based global freight forwarding company, manually updates its global corporate directory via e-mail. "Right now, the process happens weekly, but we'd like to get out of the address directory distribution business," says Chip DiComo, network manager at Hellman.

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