Data Centers

Learn about Active Directory partitions in Windows Server 2003

Windows Server 2003 supports many enhancements over previous implementations, resulting in administrators potentially accomplishing more with less while keeping things streamlined. For example, Windows Server 2003's Active Directory (AD), a staple in the Windows 2000 Server domain infrastructure, allows for faster replication times and improved use of inter-site bandwidth for integrated applications.

An integrated application stores and retrieves information from the directory itself. Domain Name System (DNS) is a prime example of an AD-integrated application. In Windows 2000 Server, integrated applications replicate to every domain controller as a part of AD. It's not unusual to experience replication lag due to the large amount of additional information transmitted. Windows Server 2003 improves the AD process with the introduction of application directory partitions (ADPs). These partitions contain directory information, which users can replicate to domain controllers as necessary, reducing the overall amount of replicated data.

When integrated DNS replication does occur in Windows Server 2003, results go only to other servers hosting an ADP for DNS and not to all domain controllers. This cuts down on the amount of data transferred, especially across WAN links.

It is important to remember that ADPs cannot replicate to global catalog (GC) servers. Users can create the partition on a GC server, but it will not replicate from another domain controller to the GC. This is to remove the likelihood of creating inconsistent information in the GC.

If an integrated application passes a request to AD via a GC port — that is, one on which the GC server is listening for domain requests — the query will return no results. In order to keep the data in a consistent state, these requests are separate from GC requests.

Most of the integrated application items happen behind the scenes, but they can make your network run more smoothly, saving you precious bandwidth among remote sites in the process.

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Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

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