REDMOND, Wash., July 23, 2001 — Bancorp South had a problem. The US$9.4 billion company — one of the largest bank holding companies in the United States, with more than 250 locations in six states, including its headquarters in Mississippi — needed to increase the flow of information to its many employees and customers, or risk losing market share in a highly competitive market.
“Customers rely on fast access to information,” says Jonathan White, manager of network services for Bancorp South. “It’s easy for them to start banking somewhere else if they don’t get it. We had an explosion of intranet applications and everyone in the bank, including tellers, needed access to those applications. Our biggest stumbling block was the limited number of applications we could run on our platform.”
To solve its problem, Bancorp South changed that platform — to Microsoft Windows 2000 and the Active Directory directory service. The company felt the impact of the change immediately.
“After the conversions and upgrades, we were able to launch our check application the next morning at 7 o’clock, and any authorized user could see any check, review the front and back, the signature, and deal with real customer issues,” says Clyde Hubbard, executive vice president of operations. “It was a tremendous help, like going from an economy car to a Corvette.”
“Active Directory gives us peace of mind,” White says. “Now, we have a central point of management, all of our PCs and all of our users are in one global group, and we’re poised for the future. For the long run, Active Directory will make all of our lives easier from an information-technology standpoint. Our corporation is very open to new ideas — not just being on the bleeding-edge of technology, but on the leading-edge of technology that makes a business case.”
Companies Adopting Active Directory to Centralize Administration, Gain Agility
Bancorp South is just one of the rapidly growing number of organizations — including General Motors, Siemens and the Ministry of Community Development in Alberta, Canada — that are adopting Active Directory to centralize administration, minimize the time and expense of conducting maintenance in the field, and gain the flexibility to better manage users and resources across enterprises that can span many miles and facilities.
According to research commissioned by Microsoft, 75 percent of Windows 2000 users have deployed, are currently deploying, or are in the planning/design phase of their Active Directory infrastructure. And Active Directory isn’t just for the largest organizations; among medium-size businesses surveyed, 72 percent of Windows 2000 customers have deployed, are currently deploying, or are in the planning/design phase of their Active Directory infrastructure.
For many customers, a key benefit of Active Directory is the greater agility the directory service brings to an organization.
“We have 125,000 desktops and 1,000 servers worldwide,” says Mike Adelson, director of global computing infrastructure for General Motors. The automotive giant recently adopted Active Directory as part of its move to Windows 2000. “We expect to see more agility,” Adelson says. “We will be able to have our employees move to any location in General Motors, log on and, because of Active Directory, they will be able to bring up their profiles, their icons, access their email and access their data.”
Similarly, the German-based electronics giant Siemens adopted Windows 2000 and Active Directory as the common platform to enable access to any resource by anyone, anywhere, and at any time on its global network of 227,000 workstations and 2,000 servers, which serve 400,000 employees in 130 countries.
Others say they’re attracted to Active Directory because of the ease it brings to network administration.
“When we looked at Exchange 2000 Server coupled with Windows 2000, we saw a single Active Directory that was going to allow us to bring everything together,” says Jack Edwards, director of information systems for the Ministry of Community Development of the province of Alberta, Canada. “Now, instead of having to go out to a user’s site or having to go to the server, we can do all of our administration right from the desktop.”
Notes John Minnick, manager of technology development, Corporate IS for Siemens Energy and Automation, Inc., “With Active Directory, it is now possible to incorporate all networks into one global directory concept for an unequivocal Siemens-wide addressing scheme.” The unified view of the network simplifies access and management, and enables security integration based on public-key cryptography, a critical concern for Siemens.
Siemens is implementing its vision using a single Active Directory domain “forest.” All domain “trees” in a forest share a common schema, configuration and global catalog, but are also customizable for separate organizations. Since Active Directory accommodates more objects, “you can have more accounts per domain controller,” Minnick says. “This lets us consolidate the number of domains and servers pretty dramatically.”
Planning Equals Success
While customers agree that Active Directory deployment is a major benefit for their organizations, they also agree that the process of adopting Active Directory must be managed carefully. For General Motors, that process included bringing together all of the company’s computing vendors — including Microsoft and hardware-supplier Compaq Computer Corp. — into a year-long, integrated team to plan deployment of the desktops, servers, and Active Directory, as well as to plan and manage the actual migration.
“Planning the Active Directory infrastructure was the most crucial part of the Active Directory implementation,” Bancorp South’s White says. “We contracted with a third party to do our initial infrastructure design. When we rolled out Windows 2000 to the branches, we found it most successful if we installed the Windows 2000 domain controller first, did the DC promo, let replication begin, then started unboxing the PCs and the monitors. By the time we were ready to add the PCs and the users to Active Directory, the replication was complete.”
To implement Windows 2000 and Active Directory at Siemens, the company established a diverse Siemens International Windows Architecture Team (SWAT). Comprised of IT professionals from throughout the company, the team ensured that the full range of organizational needs was considered. The team worked collaboratively to analyze the Siemens environment, validate several Active Directory design proposals, establish test environments, develop migration standards and guide the implementation of Active Directory.
New Guides, Industry Training Facilitate Planning, Deployment
To further improve the planning and deployment cycle for customers, Microsoft has released a second generation of planning and deployment guides for Active Directory. The guides, based on the experiences of customers who have already adopted Active Directory, are designed to reduce planning and deployment cycles. They are available online at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/technologies/directory/default.asp .
The guides represent another step in a growing industry infrastructure that facilitates Active Directory deployment and use. Already, 40 books on Active Directory are on the shelves, independent software vendors are releasing mainstream business applications that make specific use of Active Directory — with the number of such applications expected to triple by year’s end — and more than 1 million IT professionals, working in corporate IT departments and solution-provider companies worldwide, have been trained in Windows 2000 and Active Directory. Microsoft offers training programs — such as the Active Directory Hands-on Lab — and many solution partners offer courses on Active Directory.
“It’s my job to help people to do their jobs better and collaborate with others,” General Motors’ Adelson says, “and that’s what we’re going to be able to do with our new environment.”