Active Directory: adoption rates reveal extent of pervasiveness

One-third of businesses have completed migration to Active Directory, says a Microsoft study examined by Meta Group. And more are making the switch soon.

One-third of businesses have completed migration to Active Directory, says a Microsoft study examined by Meta Group. And more are making the switch soon.

Microsoft conducted a multi-country study of more than 1,000 organizations in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan, to gauge the extent of Active Directory deployments, reasons for and against migrations, and post-deployment satisfaction levels. IT research firm Meta Group published a report (client reg. req.) on the Active Directory study Nov. 11; the study concluded in May 2004, but it appears Meta Group obtained the results only recently, since the research firm made no mention of it until this month.

According to Meta, the study found that 41% of large organizations surveyed had migrated to Active Directory as of mid-2004; an additional 21% were in the process of implementation. Among medium-sized businesses, 33% reported completions. See the chart at the bottom of the page for the complete figures.

The study defined large organizations as those with more than 500 desktop PCs; medium-sized were those with 50 to 500 PCs; and small with fewer than 50 PCs.

Active Directory is Microsoft's network directory service, which provides a single point of management for Windows-based user accounts, clients, servers, and applications. From a strategic standpoint, it forms the basis of Microsoft's plans for pervasive identity infrastructure in the enterprise.

It's easy to look at Microsoft's survey results with a critical eye-putting 100% faith in a survey conducted by a vendor about its own product is never wise. But when you take into account that over half of all servers are running an OS from Microsoft, it's easy to see how an integrated identity infrastructure offering would piggyback on that success.

And you don't have to take Microsoft's word for the pervasiveness of Active Directory. ZDNet Research has a long-standing research program, called IT Priorities, in which we survey mid- to large-sized organizations about their IT projects and plans. Ever since the program's inception in October 2002, the monthly responses revealed that Active Directory projects were a top-five priority. Enterprises have been occupied with Acrive Directory roll-outs for so long, it's a permanent fixture in our top-line results for the Software Infrastructure category.

When the Microsoft survey asked companies about their satisfaction level, respondents surveyed expressed positive ratings overall for Active Directory. Of the alternatives preferred to Active Directory, Novell eDirectory was the most common, with IBM Tivoli Directory Server another significant choice.

The drivers for deploying Active Directory for most organizations are threefold, according to Earl Perkins, a META Group vice president. The first is a desire to improve the overall manageability of existing Windows networks; second is preparation for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange 200x; and third, part of a program to improve Windows network security. The top inhibitors to deploying Active Directory include the lack of need for those services, a preference for Novell eDirectory, and pre-existing use of another directory service.

"At the current adoption rate, the majority of organizations worldwide will have Active Directory available to them as a repository for identity and related assets, potentially in a pervasive design," Perkins said.

Active Directory Market Study: US Results
Active Directory Deployment Status - All OS Users Total (25+ PCs) Core Medium-Sized Orgs. Large Orgs. (>500 desktops)
Complete 31% 33% 41%
In Progress 9% 8% 21%
Initial Planning/Testing 9% 8% 21%
Plan to Deploy 14% 14% 14%
No Plans 38% 34% 14%
Satisfaction Level Active Directory Deployed
Very Satisfied 35% 37% 33%
Somewhat Satisfied 44% 44% 44%
Somewhat or Very Dissatisfied 4% 6% 3%
Top 3 Active Directory Drivers
Improved manageability of Windows network
Need Active DIdrectory for Exchange 2000/2003
Improved Windows network security
Top 3 Active Directory Barriers
No need for Active Directory
Prefer Novell
Use other system/service
Source: Microsoft Custom Research Market Study, May 2004