Microsoft to simplify directory management

Goal is to make Active Directory easier to use, set-up, administer

Microsoft is developing a number of tools and technologies designed to make it easier to manage users in Active Directory and for companies to confirm identities with partners.

Prototype of the tools were shown yesterday at NetPro's annual Directory Experts Conference (DEC) conference and focus on a simple interface that streamlines the discovery of user and schema information. The federation tools provide a simple UI that fronts canned and customized PowerShell-based scripts that build federations via Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) and lets companies securely share data.

The prototypes were demoed by Joe Long, general manager of the connected identity and directory at Microsoft, during his keynote presentation to open the three-day conference.

Long stressed that the technologies were merely prototypes but said his goal was to upgrade all the major components of the identity and access tools, which are part of Active Directory, over the next 24 months.

The latest version of Active Directory shipped a week ago with Windows Server 2008, including tools for automatically setting up servers to support such roles as federation. Microsoft's current update cycles call for a minor or R2 version of the server every two years and a major release every four years.

But development of new features is in full stride, Long said.

Alain Lissoir, program manager for the management infrastructure group, showed off a new management UI that would become an option to the directory's users and groups snap-in to the management console.

The UI used what he called a system of progressive disclosure that is similar to type-down addressing. The interface builds a view of the directory as a user inputs information rather than providing everything at once and forcing the user to search for information.

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