- The AD framework that holds the objects can be viewed at a number of levels. At the top of the structure is the forest. The forest is a collection of every object, its attributes, and rules (attribute syntax) in the AD. The forest, tree, and domain are the logical parts in an AD network.
- The AD forest contains one or more transitive, trust-linked trees. A tree is a collection of one or more domains and domain trees, again linked in a transitive trust hierarchy. Domains are identified by their DNS name structure, the namespace.
- The objects held within a domain can be grouped into containers called Organizational Units (OUs). OUs give a domain a hierarchy, ease its administration, and can give a semblance of the structure of the AD's company in organizational or geographical terms. OUs can contain OUs - indeed, domains are containers in this sense - and can hold multiple nested OUs. Microsoft recommends as few domains as possible in AD and a reliance on OUs to produce structure and improve the implementation of policies and administration. The OU is the common level at which to apply group policies, which are AD objects themselves called Group Policy Objects (GPOs), although policies can also be applied to domains or sites (see below). The OU is the level at which administrative powers are commonly delegated, but granular delegation can be performed on individual objects or attributes as well.
- AD also supports the creation of Sites, which are physical, rather than logical, groupings defined by one or more IP subnets. Sites distinguish between locations connected by low-speed (e.g., WAN, VPN) and high-speed (e.g., LAN) connections. Sites are independent of the domain and OU structure and are common across the entire forest. Sites are used to control network traffic generated by replication and also to refer clients to the nearest domain controllers. Exchange 2007 also uses the site topology for mail routing. Policies can also be applied at the site level.
- The actual division of the company's information infrastructure into a hierarchy of one or more domains and top-level OUs is a key decision. Common models are by business unit, by geographical location, by IT Service, or by object type. These models are also often used in combination. OUs should be structured primarily to facilitate administrative delegation, and secondarily, to facilitate group policy application. Although OUs form an administrative boundary, the only true security boundary is the forest itself and an administrator of any domain in the forest must be trusted across all domains in the forest.
- Physically the Active Directory information is held on one or more equal peer domain controllers (DCs), replacing the NT PDC/BDC model. Each DC has a copy of the AD; changes on one computer being synchronized (converged) between all the DC computers by multi-master replication. Servers joined in to AD, which are not domain controllers, are called Member Servers. The AD database is split into different stores or partitions. Microsoft often refers to these partitions as 'naming contexts'. The 'Schema' partition contains the definition of object classes and attributes within the Forest. The 'Configuration' partition contains information on the physical structure and configuration of the forest (such as the site topology). The 'Domain' partition holds all objects created in that domain. The first two partitions replicate to all domain controllers in the Forest. The Domain partition replicates only to Domain Controllers within its domain. A subset of objects in the domain partition are also replicated to domain controllers that are configured as global catalogs.
- Unlike earlier versions of Windows which used NetBIOS to communicate, Active Directory is fully integrated with DNS and TCP/IP — indeed DNS is required. To be fully functional, the DNS server must support SRV resource records or service records.
- AD replication is 'pull' rather than 'push'. The Knowledge Consistency Checker (KCC) creates a replication topology of site links using the defined sites to manage traffic. Intrasite replication is frequent and automatic as a result of change notification, which triggers peers to begin a pull replication cycle. Intersite replication intervals are less frequent and do not use change notification by default, although this is configurable and can be made identical to intrasite replication. A different 'cost' can be given to each link (e.g., DS3, T1, ISDN etc.) and the site link topology will be altered accordingly by the KCC. Replication between domain controllers may occur transitively through several site links on same-protocol site link bridges, if the 'cost' is low, although KCC automatically costs a direct site-to-site link lower than transitive connections. Site-to-site replication can be configured to occur between a bridgehead server in each site, which then replicates the changes to other DCs within the site.
- In a multi-domain forest the AD database becomes partitioned. That is, each domain maintains a list of only those objects that belong in that domain. So, for example, a user created in Domain A would be listed only in Domain A's domain controllers. Global catalog (GC) servers are used to provide a global listing of all objects in the Forest. The Global catalog is held on domain controllers configured as global catalog servers. Global Catalog servers replicate to themselves all objects from all domains and hence, provide a global listing of objects in the forest. However, in order to minimize replication traffic and to keep the GC's database small, only selected attributes of each object are replicated. This is called the partial attribute set (PAS). The PAS can be modified by modifying the schema and marking attributes for replication to the GC.
- Replication of Active Directory uses Remote Procedure Calls (RPC over IP [RPC/IP]). Between Sites you can also choose to use SMTP for replication, but only for changes in the Schema or Configuration. SMTP cannot be used for replicating the Domain partition. In other words, if a domain exists on both sides of a WAN connection, you must use RPCs for replication.
The AD database, the directory store, in Windows 2000 uses the JET Blue-based Extensible Storage Engine (ESE98), limited to 16 terabytes and 1 billion objects in each domain controller's database. Microsoft has created NTDS databases with more than 2 billion objects. (NT4's Security Account Manager could support no more than 40,000 objects). Called NTDS.DIT, it has two main tables: the data table and the link table. In Windows 2003 a third main table was added for security descriptor single instancing.
Active Directory is a necessary component for many Windows services in an organization such as Exchange.
SIMPLIFIED VERSION OF THE ABOVE DETAILED STUDY
- AD contains Forests
- Forests hold trees
- Trees contains objects like printers,services(emai),users(user accounts and groups).
- Forests have a master policy and trees have their policies. Objects do have policies according to the object defined(Group Policy Objects - GPOs)
- Objects held in a group are put in a container called Organizational Units(OUs)
- OU is a key decision. By OU we can know the business unit , geographical location, IT services,user