NT nets need cleanup before Win 2K

CIOs who believe that their sprawling Windows NT networks can be brought under control magically with Active Directory will be disappointed, users and analysts said.

NT networks are organided into domains connected by trust relationships, an architecture that has been criticided as unscalable and difficult to manage. Active Directory still supports these domains but includes them in a hierarchical directory tree.

"From what we've seen of Windows 2000, you have to have everything in order" before migrating, said Brad Williamson, senior network analyst at UOP, a petrochemical technology company.

The company acquired domain-management tools from FastLane Technologies, to pare down its number of domains from 29 to 15. The reduction was mainly to ease short-term management pains, but also to prepare for a future Windows 2000 migration.

Branch offices had created their own NT domains as a sign of their independence, he said. "I wouldn't call it easy," Williamson said about the company's domain-consolidation effort, but with only NT's built-in tools, it would have been "damn near impossible."

Laura DiDio, an analyst at Giga Information Group said this situation is common. "Ask any large enterprise how many domains they have, and you'll hear a long pause," she said. "And if they can't answer that question, they are already in deep trouble."

Microsoft has included licensed technology from Houston-based Mission Critical Software in Windows 2000. The software permits users and resources to be moved into Active Directory during migration. But, said DiDio, "Before you can migrate, you have to consolidate and collapse these [domains]."

"You have to take pause and evaluate what you are taking into Active Directory," said Tom Wagner, senior information technology analyst at Cargill. Wagner has been using tools from Entevo to manage an NT network. He's now evaluating Entevo's Active Directory migration tool.

"We are taking Windows 2000 as an opportunity to get one consolidated [directory] infrastructure at Cargill," said Wagner.

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