Migrating Domains Becomes a Critical Mission

When the shrink wrapped box with Windows 2000 Server inside finally arrives at IT doorsteps, organizations will not be installing it in droves. "Kicking the tires" is the most commonly used verbiage when speaking about plans to implement Windows 2000.

Once you get serious about buying a car, however, kicking the tires is a waste of time. To avoid buying a lemon, you need to check the transmission, brakes, suspension, and shocks. In the Windows world, this process takes place in the form of preparing a directory migration.

In this second part of ENT's series on directory migration vendors, we examine Mission Critical Software (MCS, www.missioncritical.com) and its Domain Administrator migration software.

Mission Critical's aim with Domain Administrator, part of the One Point suite of management software, is to provide two upgrade paths, allowing administrators to choose which way they will perform the migration. But if at some point along the way the other method seems better, you can switch routes and continue on your way.

The two modes of migration are process and individual driven. The process-driven mode has a best-practice set of operations from a wizard that will guide administrators through the migration, explains Ed Gondek, director of product management for Mission Critical administration products.

The process mode permits the design of an organizational unit (OU) structure in Windows 2000, while analyzing older data in Windows NT domains and resolving collisions and naming conflicts. "Then you watch the migration take place and choose to commit the changes or not by monitoring summary reports of what the migration entails," Gondek explains. "It allows you to go through the migration without worrying if you're right. It's completely wizard driven to avoid shooting yourself in the foot."

The individual mode is for administrators who are confident in what they want to do. The wizard is essentially disabled, and the administrator can perform any operation on his own. The nice part is when the person going through the migration using the individual mode gets flustered or needs help, he can turn the wizard back on and go back to the process driven approach.

One of the first steps in the migration is to find out what the OU will look like. Will it be a geographic representation of the network, a divisional one, or something else entirely? Once settled, a domain consolidation is required, cleaning out the miscellaneous and unused NT domains.

Another function that is needed is the cleaning out of redundant domain and user information from the domains that are being kept. The point is to bring an entirely clean system over to Windows 2000's directory services Active Directory. The Active Directory OU in Domain Administrator looks similar to the logical views of the Windows NT network.

Mission Critical has several licensing agreements with Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com). A watered-down Active Directory migration tool that Microsoft provides with Windows 2000 was built by MCS, and the snap-in module for Domain Administrator will be provided for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

Domain Administrator includes a prune-and-graft feature that has the ability to trim a directory tree and adhere it to another. The product also uses security features new to Windows 2000 that allow managers to keep Windows NT 4.0 domains in operation until they are comfortable with the deployment of Windows 2000. "They'll be running in mixed-mode environments," Gondek explains. "Our tool allows you to have this breathing space for as long as you need it."

It's very important to support this, says Richard Ptak, vice president of systems and applications management at Hurwitz Group (www.hurwitz.com). Most companies will run mixed-mode environments for three to nine months, depending on the size of the environment. "You don't want to have to introduce a new tool and a new operating system," Ptak says. "As a general rule, you want to minimize the number of new variables you introduce into a new and complex environment."

Administrators will be able to model the way they would like Active Directory structures to look in Windows 2000 Server before they start to move operations. If problems occur, Domain Administrator's rollback features can restore previous configurations. A seven-step migration guide can be found on the MCS Web site at www.missioncritical.com/Solutions/solMigrationGuide.htm.

"The big thing I think MCS is offering is the ability to switch back and forth [between process and individual driven modes] and to try different structures as you move between the directory environments as you find which one is more optimal," Ptak explains. "That's pretty revolutionary to have that flexibility."

Another area of Windows 2000 migration that MCS has jumped on is its support of NetWare environments and the migration of them, as well. "It wasn't until [Jan. 10] when FastLane announced they were also going to support NetWare to 2000 migration," Ptak says. "But MCS does have a big head start over FastLane in terms of delivering a product and associated services since they started almost a year ago."

Next issue: Entevo Corp. introduces Managed Migrations with its DirectAdmin.