A Microsoft technology for sharing one set of user accounts, security permissions, and management information across many Windows servers and desktops.

Active Directory is a directory service created by Microsoft for managing Windows environments.

It is used for:

  • A centralized Authentication/Authorization source for Kerberos and NTLM protocols.
  • Providing a single authentication/authorization domain for member servers and workstations.
  • Providing LDAP services.
  • Providing centralized configuration methods of Windows workstations and servers through Group Policy and other methods.
  • Multi-site replication of directory-database data.

Non-Windows support is generally provided through the Samba package on POSIX operating systems (Linux, OS X, BSD, Solaris, etc). All modern Samba releases allow machines to join a domain as if they were a Windows machine.

For a list of ports which must be open in a firewall for AD to work properly, see What firewall ports need to be open for Active Directory?.

Some useful links are below

http://blogs.technet.com/askds - Official blog from Microsoft engineers supporting active directory http://blogs.technet.com/activedirectoryua/ - Official blog from technical writers at Microsoft for AD http://blogs.msdn.com/b/active_directory_team_blog/ - Official blog from product group for AD and other related technologies

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