Taking into account the usual woes encountered with Version 1.0 of Microsoft Corp. products, the security issues associated with the lack of interdomain partitioning, and the high cost of upgrading hardware to Windows 2000 compatibility levels, the real question we should be asking is: “Is my IT support group ready for a full rollout of Win 2000?” After careful consideration, most groups would answer, “No.”
Remember going from Windows 3.1 to 95? The user interface took some getting used to, but for the most part, you upgraded or reinstalled, and lived through the new operating system blues. It was the same story with moving from NT 3.5 to 4.0 – new user interface, some new features and bugs, but generally speaking, the concepts were the same.
Win 2000 with Active Directory is a whole new ball game. Kerberos security, Domain Name System, IP Security, Group Policy Objects and Encrypted File System are all new to NT 4.0 administrators. If you don’t use Exchange as your corporate e-mail system, you will probably need to learn about X.500 and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.
Even the brightest among your staff are going to need some serious training to effectively implement Active Directory, and while most of us are lucky enough to have a training budget, it is usually not enough to retrain your entire group at once. Assuming that you have the time and resources to properly plan your Active Directory implementation and, assuming you have the means to get your IT staff properly trained, you must now train your user base. Typically, users do not react well to change in their computing environment, and Active Directory is a hefty change. Configuring network places and drive mounting within Active Directory is different than previous Windows versions, and produces a new look and feel, which will confuse many users.
None of these changes are earth-shattering. But changing your architecture and user interface without thoroughly planning your structure or properly training your support staff will result in an unfavorable response from users and management.
The current industry practice of releasing software before it is truly ready for production is not going to change as long as we, the buyers, keep settling for these products.
While most of us would prefer to stick with a proven, solid product rather than upgrade to an unproven, questionable product, we are usually driven by end-user or top-dog demand in response to market hype.
Yes, there are problems with Active Directory, and yes, Microsoft will address the problems, albeit slowly. The problem is IT departments jumping into Win 2000 without being fully prepared on all fronts – education, planning and hardware.
As a wise opossum once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Allred is manager of network services for the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Durham, N.C. He can be reached at email@example.com.