School district learns about scaling directories

As it consolidates eight school districts into one, the Toronto District School Board is five months into a project that will enable the district's network to serve more than 300,000 users.

The district's 600 schools have 300,000 students, 25,000 staff members and 50,000 computers. The migration of all those student and teacher accounts to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 will be completed in 18 to 24 months.

"We know from our tests that Active Directory will hold up, and that's why we implemented it so quickly. We have [migrated] 4,000 users right now, and it's a snap," said Jey Jeyarajan, senior manager of technical services for the school district.

Jeyarajan and the school district's information technology staff of eight had to consolidate eight networks — six based on Windows NT, one a Windows NT/Novell Inc. NetWare hybrid and one a pure NetWare. They decided to build a network-centric model, aggregating everything into one location and delivering services through the network.

"We wanted to leave some of the administrative functions with the teachers, such as changing passwords and adding and deleting users, without the complexity of giving them full administrative rights," Jeyarajan said. "We also wanted a hierarchical view of network security."

The district settled on Windows 2000 and Active Directory despite some initial reluctance to adopt an unproven technology.

The design centralized Active Directory into a single metropolitan data center built on top of powerful servers and connected to users through an existing high-bandwidth fiber network.

The directory is constructed on three servers, which ensures that the school district will have at least two servers always running. In case of catastrophe, the directory data is backed up to tape.

After centrally deploying Active Directory, the other key was the high-speed net. The board took advantage of a fiber-based network under construction to deliver multimedia, e-learning and a virtual school environment.

All users log on through the directory to locate services such as file and print, Internet and intranet access, e-mail, databases and more than 2,000 applications, including educational software such as The Learning Center's Reader Rabbit.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to Network World Fusion. Story copyright 2000 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.

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