Census wrestles with integration issues

Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory is a new way of life at the Census Bureau, where Novell Inc.'s NetWare network software and IBM Corp.'s Lotus Notes messaging software have dominated the agency's information technology environment for years.

More recently, Census has been adding Microsoft's Windows NT software to the mix. In January 2001, officials began planning a migration from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. Part of the plan was to find better ways to manage a growing body of Microsoft software.

"We built a lab environment [that] simulated our proposed design, but did not do production work" immediately, said Teryl Baker, a Census local-area network administrator.

Once he stabilized the lab, Baker eased the design into production earlier this year. Now the challenge is to operate Novell software with Novell Directory Services for some users and Microsoft software with Active Directory for others.

To detect operational problems in Active Directory and Novell NetWare, the agency is using NetPro Computing Inc.'s DirectoryAnalyzer, and to monitor and record configuration changes in them, the agency is using NetPro's DirectoryInsight.

Census officials' chief concern is that Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) is not Active Directory-aware. Census uses SMS to distribute software across the network and to monitor and analyze network usage and perform network administration.

Although SMS enables users to manage resources in a single domain, Active Directory operates across and within domains. The inability to synchronize data between the two management systems is a problem, but Microsoft plans to reconcile that in SMS 2003, code named Topaz.

"When SMS becomes AD-aware, it will allow us to consolidate domains," Baker said. "We try to keep the number of domains as low as possible, but because SMS lacks directory awareness, it forces us to have more domains than we want."

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