Remote management cuts cost of move to AD

International mining company Xstrata has rolled out Microsoft's Active Directory to 3,000 users in four months by using remote...

International mining company Xstrata has rolled out Microsoft's Active Directory to 3,000 users in four months by using remote migration tools.The task would have taken three to four times as long using traditional methods.

Although Microsoft supplies Active Directory migration software with Windows 2003, Xstrata chose third-party software from Aelita to reduce the time and cost of the migration.

Several complex issues face users planning to migrate to Active Directory, such as retaining file permission information and workstation registration so that users and their PCs are authenticated on the Windows server correctly. Many organisations undertake large and costly security audits in advance of such migrations to ensure access to files remains uninterrupted.

Aelita said its toolset reduced the amount of time IT staff had to spend on roll-outs by enabling remote administration. For example, it remotely re-registers workstations when they are moved from a Windows 2000 domain onto the Active Directory.

The Xstrata project involved consolidating messaging systems based on Lotus Notes, POP3 and Exchange versions 5.5 and 2000 running on NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Novell Netware into a single Active Directory structure. An assessment of the project found that the migration would have taken between 12 to 16 months and cost a seven-figure sum without the remote roll-out technology.

Xstrata spent £400,000 on tools and consultancy for the migration. Jason Wilkins, Xstrata's head of IT, said, "There is a huge fear factor with Active Directory but when you delve into it further its not that complicated." He said that, apart from the consultancy, Xstrata was able to migrate its systems using local IT staff.

The first phase of the project, a four-month migration of 3,000 of the company's 4,500 users, has now been completed. The migrations of desktop environments, including file access, e-mail, passwords and workstation registration was conducted remotely.

Gary Barnett, principal analyst at Ovum, said, "Active Directory migration projects are always a significant undertaking. Anything that can make the process more straightforward has got to be a good thing."

Mark Tennant, Microsoft's server marketing manager, said improvements to Active Directory under Windows Server 2003 meant that its tools could handle most migration scenarios but conceded, "There is always going to be some special customer need that a third party can step in and provide for."

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