70-240 in 15 minutes a week: Introduction to Windows 2000 Server and Active Directory

by Dan DiNicolo
Welcome to article 8 in my 70-240 in 15 minutes a week series. This week's article is the first in our look at the Windows 2000 Server portion of the exam - it covers an introduction to both Windows 2000 Server as well as Active Directory concepts. In reviewing my materials and notes, I have decided not to explicitly follow the Microsoft exam preparation guide on a topic-by-topic basis. Quite simply, the Server preparation guide looks like a great big cut-and-paste from the Professional guide, and doesn't give you nearly enough information to be successful on this exam. I am also trying to avoid repeating what has been stated in previous Professional-related articles, so I'll reiterate that you need to know the material from both to find success on either exam. My revised expectation is that the Server portion of the series will run between 5 and 6 articles total.

The material that this article will cover includes:

- Introduction to Windows 2000 Server
- Introduction to Active Directory concepts
- Object Naming
- Active Directory Logical Structure
- Active Directory Physical Structure
- Upgrading a domain to Windows 2000

Introduction to Windows 2000 Server

Windows 2000 Server and Professional are fundamentally quite similar, both in terms or interface and architecture. As such, they often get lumped together when discussed, and for the purpose of the exams, this is very much the case. However, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two. The two main differences between Server and Pro are in terms of optimization as well as services offered. Professional is optimized as a desktop operating system where one runs user applications, while Server is optimized to service a variety of requests from client systems. In terms of services offered, Server provides many more than Professional, providing the ability to run WINS, DNS, Active Directory, and so forth. Since we've already covered the Professional materials, let's begin taking a look at what the Server product itself is all about.

First off, we can't just talk about the Server product, because there are actually three: Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server. There seems to be some debate over the differences between these three, when in fact the only differences are in terms of scalability and availability. The differences are outlined in the table below:
  Max RAM Max CPUs Clustering?
Windows 2000 Server 4 GB 4 No
Windows 2000 Advanced Server 8 GB 8 Yes - 2 node cluster and 32-node network load balancing
Windows 2000 Datacenter Server 64 GB 32 Yes - 4 node cluster and 32-node network load balancing
Be aware that the minimum support CPU for Server is a Pentium 133, and recommended minimum for RAM is 256 MB, although 128 MB is the minimum supported. The scalability elements outlined in the table above are obvious - Advanced and Datacenter Server can utilize more RAM and CPUs than the basic Server version. However, both of these versions also support two types of clustering, which are availability technologies. When servers are clustered, more than one server (called a node) is connected to a common storage device, and work together as a single system to ensure availability of mission-critical applications. Should one of the nodes in a cluster fail, the services are still available, since the other nodes continue to handle requests. In a Network Load Balancing (NLB) cluster, client requests are distributed amongst a number of systems that provide access to a single application. For example, you could have up to 32 servers configured with identical copies of your website, and the NLB will distribute requests across the NLB cluster, increasing performance, availability and reliability. Just a note, but any suggestion that Windows 2000 Server cannot act as a domain controller is absolutely false.

Windows 2000 Server also differs from Windows 2000 Professional in terms of the acceptance of incoming client connections. Windows 2000 Pro supports a maximum of 10 simultaneous connections, while in Windows 2000 Server the number of simultaneous connections supported is based on the number of CALs (client access licenses) available. Much like NT 4, two options exist in terms of licensing a server, Per Server and Per Seat. In Per Server licensing, each simultaneous client connection requires a CAL, while in Per Seat, each client requires a CAL. You can still switch from Per Server to Per Seat, but not vice versa. Note that you don't require CALs for Telnet, FTP, or anonymous web server connections.

As in Windows NT, when you install Windows 2000 Server you will be asked whether you wish the system to be part of a workgroup or a domain. If made part of a workgroup, users who log on will be authenticated versus the local security database on the server. If made part of a domain, a computer account must be created for the system, either in advance or during the installation process. Note that the decision as to whether or not a computer becomes a domain controller is no longer made as part of the installation process. Unlike NT 4, domain controllers are created after Windows 2000 Server is installed. Promotions to domain controllers or demotions to member servers can be done without needing to reinstall the operating system.

Welcome to article 8 in my 70-240 in 15 minutes a week series. This week's article is the first in our look at the Windows 2000 Server portion of the exam - it covers an introduction to both Windows 2000 Server as well as Active Directory concepts...

Page 2: Active Directory Concepts

This article was originally published on Mar 26, 2001
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