Directory Architecture of Mac

By: Firoj Khan


Apple has gone well beyond generic standards-based support. Mac OS X builds in support for all of Microsoft’s proprietary Active Directory services: Microsoft Kerberos authentication; Active Directory authentication policies, such as password changes, expiration, and forced password changes; and Active Directory replication and failover.

Mac OS X marks a significant first for Apple, an enterprise-capable operating system. Built from the ground up based on open standards with powerful Unix-like underpinnings, it's moving Apple further into the infrastructures of business and academic computing than ever before. Critical to this trend is its ability to make use of enterprise directories, that is, centralized network repositories for users, groups, security policy and other administrative data. Due to its ubiquitous nature, Microsoft's Active Directory plays a particularly important role.

Both its client and server personalities- bring significant progress to Apple's place in Windows-centric organizations. Unlike the LDAPv3-based Jaguar strategies we examined in my earlier articles, Panther's capabilities have been specifically engineered by Apple to work in much the same way that a Windows client would when joining and participating in an Active Directory.

Active Directory:

Active Directory integration has been fundamentally changed in Panther, Mac OS X 10.3. We're working with Apple right now in order to determine what we can say and when we can say about it. Beyond the NDAs, though, Jaguar is still very relevant. Apple's OS releases tend to be wide in scope, resulting in a significant lag between introduction and deployment while support infrastructures are updated.

Open Directory Review:

Mac OS X's place in an enterprise directory, we first need to understand its capabilities, processes and configuration. Apple's Directory Services Architecture is known as Open Directory.

One of the primary features of Open Directory is its extensibility. Its modular, plug-in based architecture allows Open Directory client applications to access new directories without being updated. The applications continue to dispatch their lookups to Open Directory. Open Directory itself manages interaction with the new plug-in, and hence the new directory itself.
Apple Servers on Windows Networks

With new Directory Access modules, Apple servers can access account records stored in Active Directory — without requiring any modifications to the Active Directory schema. This enables Windows-based departments or workgroups to take advantage of the low-cost SMB file services in Mac OS X Server, while integrating with their existing Active Directory infrastructure for user account information and authentication. Secure network services — including network home directories — hosted on Mac OS X Server even support single sign-on for clients authenticated using Microsoft’s proprietary Kerberos implementation.

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