TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacEnterprise: Integrating with Active Directory

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 04
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

MacEnterprise: Integrating with Active Directory

A look at third-party tools for leveraging your AD infrastructure

By Greg Neagle, MacEnterprise.org

Introduction

In enterprise environments, Microsoft's Active Directory is possibly the single-most common directory service. It's well suited to large companies with geographically separated locations, and scales very well to tens and even hundreds of thousands of users. In any organization that has many Windows computers, or any company that uses Exchange, it is the obvious and maybe unavoidable choice for a directory service. For these reasons and more, Active Directory is the 500-pound gorilla of directory services. Questions about integrating Mac OS X with Active Directory are among the most common questions on the MacEnterprise mailing list (http://www.macenterprise.org/mailing-list).

Given the ubiquity of Active Directory in enterprise environments, it's not surprising that Apple offers a solution for AD integration: the Active Directory plug-in for Directory Services. This plug-in has been covered well here and elsewhere: Michael Bartosh wrote an excellent article for the November 2004 issue of MacTech covering the AD plug-in that shipped with Panther. You can find it in MacTech's online archives - much of what it covers is still relevant. In October 2007, Philip Reinhart covered a few more tricks with using the AD plug-in and the dsconfigad command-line tool. And of this writing, Apple has an excellent whitepaper on integrating Mac OS X with Active Directory available here: http://images.apple.com/business/solutions/it/docs/Best_Practices_Active_Directory.pdf

Still, Apple's built-in solution does not meet every possible need you might have when integrating Macs into an existing Active Directory infrastructure. Fortunately, there are third-party tools that can be used to supplement or even replace Apple's tools. We'll look at a few in this article. While not intended to be a in-depth examination, we'll briefly touch on the main features of some of the third-party solutions.

What's missing?

Before we look at third-party tools, it makes sense to talk about some of the "missing features" from Apple's offerings. Get ready for some three-letter acronyms:

GPO

GPOs, or Group Policy Objects, are used by Active Directory administrators to help manage their Windows clients. They can be used to manage security policies, software installation, login scripts, folder redirection, and some application settings. They are similar in concept to MCX settings in managed OS X environments. Some organizations would like to be able to define GPO settings to manage Macs along with their Windows machines. Apple's AD plug-in doesn't support Active Directory GPOs.

MCX

MCX is Apple's client management framework. Out-of-the box, there is no support for MCX settings in Active Directory. Some MCX options include extending the AD schema to include MCX attributes, deploying a dual-directory infrastructure where MCX records are stored in a secondary directory, or using a third-party replacement for Apple's AD plug-in.

DFS

DFS, or Microsoft's Distributed File System (sometimes written "Dfs") is a method of making shared filesystems available via a network. This is typically used to provide fault-tolerance and/or redundancy, and to insulate users from having to know on which fileserver a given resource is located. It is roughly equivalent to automounted NFS shares where a resource can be accessed by a specific path, no matter which actual fileserver hosts it. While this is not really a function of the AD plug-in, Apple's built in SMB/CIFS client does not support Microsoft's DFS.

This is not an exhaustive list - certainly there are other features of Active Directory and Windows file services that are not supported by Apple's tools, or with which Apple's tools have difficulty.

Select Third-party tools

ADmitMac

Thursby Software has been providing tools to help Macs connect to Windows for many years. ADmitMac, currently at version 4, is a complete replacement for both Apple's AD plugin and the built-in SMB client. Some key features:

Requires no Active Directory schema changes

Supports DFS, even for home directories

Support for Active Directory shared printers

Support for MCX client management

More information is available at http://www.thursby.com/products/admitmac.html

DAVE

Another product from Thursby Software is DAVE. It implements a subset of the features in ADmitMac. It operates as a replacement for Apple's SMB client, but provides less integration with Active Directory. See http://www.thursby.com/products/dave.html to learn more.

DirectControl

DirectControl from Centrify is also an Active Directory plug-in replacement. Besides the obligatory support for Active Directory authentication, a major feature of interest is support for GPOs: Windows administrators can use standard Windows tools to define GPOs for Mac clients that can specify certain management settings for user and computers. The ability to use a single set of tools to manage users, groups, and manage computers, no matter the OS is an important one for some organizations. Centrify also offers DirectControl for Linux and UNIX, which offers the possibility of using Active Directory to authenticate and manage all your platforms. More information on the Mac product is available at http://www.centrify.com/directcontrol/mac_os_x.asp

Likewise Enterprise

Likewise Enterprise is yet another replacement for Apple's Active Directory plug-in. A unique feature of this product is the ability to store MCX data in Active Directory without extending the schema. This is similar in concept to what Centrify's DirectControl does, but with two important differences:

Administrators can not only define Group Policy Objects using the Microsoft Management Console, but they can also use Apple's Workgroup Manager application to define Mac-specific management settings

Because actual MCX data can be stored in AD, a wider range of management settings are supported.

Likewise Enterprise is also available for Linux and UNIX, again making it possible to use a single directory service for all your platforms. Additionally, Likewise offers an Active Directory management console that runs on Mac OS X and Linux. Visit http://www.likewise.com/products/likewise_enterprise/ for more information on this product.

ExtremeZ-IP

ExtremeZ-IP is a product from GroupLogic that provides Apple File Protocol services and printing services from Windows servers. Implementing ExtremeZ-IP on your Windows file servers allows Mac clients to connect via the native AFP client instead of the SMB/CIFS client. Since this is a server-based file sharing solution, it might seem odd to include it in this list of third-party tools. But GroupLogic has announced that Extreme-IP 6, due this year, will provide support for Microsoft DFS. With ExtremeZ-IP 6, Leopard (and later) clients will be able to use AFP to connect to Microsoft DFS shares. As a server-based solution, it can be used in conjunction with many of the client-based solutions mentioned above. You can find out more about ExtremeZ-IP at http://www.grouplogic.com/products/extremeZ-IP/

Active Directory Integration Cheat Sheet

To wrap things up for this overview, the table below lists the solutions mentioned in this article with a matrix of some of the features not directly supported by Apple's built-in tools. If Apple's bundled solutions for Active Directory and Windows file server integration don't meet all your needs, you have some additional options to explore!


Greg Neagle is a member of the steering committee of the Mac OS X Enterprise Project (macenterprise.org) and is a senior systems engineer at a large animation studio. Greg has been working with the Mac since 1984, and with OS X since its release. He can be reached at gregneagle@mac.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

iFFmpeg 6.2.5 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a comprehensive media tool to convert movie, audio and media files between formats. The FFmpeg command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does all the hard... Read more
DaisyDisk 4.4 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.07 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.071 - Customize Multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.07 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
PDFpen 8.3.2 - $74.95
PDFpen allows users to easily edit PDF's. Add text, images and signatures. Fill out PDF forms. Merge or split PDF documents. Reorder and delete pages. Even correct text and edit graphics! Features... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 6.5.20 - Catalog your d...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast Finder-like intuitive look and feel Super-fast search algorithm Can compress catalog data for... Read more
Things 2.8.9 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more
PDFpenPro 8.3.2 - $124.95
PDFpenPro allows users to edit PDF's easily. Add text, images and signatures. Fill out PDF forms. Merge or split PDF documents. Reorder and delete pages. Create fillable forms and tables of content... Read more
Things 2.8.9 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Pokémon GO Generation 2 evolution guide
At long last, Niantic Labs finally unleashed the Generation 2 Pokémon into the wild. Pokémon GO trainers are scrambling to grab up this new set of 80 Pokémon. There are some special new tricks required to catch all of these new beasties, though.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It feels as though the New Year got off to a creaking start as far as mobile games go, but that's changed over the past few weeks. The last few days alone have seen the debut of a number of wonderful games, so we thought we'd take the time to... | Read more »
Recruit more scallywags and discover new...
Get ready to show off your sea legs all over again in Oceans & Empires’ new grand update, which aims to make the act of rising to the role of seven seas ruler even more fresh and appealing, thanks to a richness of new content on both iOS and... | Read more »
Mage the Ascension: Refuge (Games)
Mage the Ascension: Refuge 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The groundbreaking roleplaying game Mage: The Ascension manifests in our turbulent present with Refuge, an... | Read more »
Vampire: Prelude (Games)
Vampire: Prelude 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The classic roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade returns to digital games with a Prelude of things to come. Experience a... | Read more »
Digby Forever Guide: How to dig to the d...
Digby Forever is a sparkling homage to arcade classics, and while you may be tiring of the number of arcade games being thrown at you, this endless digger finds many ways to stand out from the rest of the pack. The game manages to be challenging... | Read more »
The best sales on the App Store this wee...
It's been quite the week in mobile games, but if the latest releases(there were some pretty darn good ones, in case you missed out) aren't really doing the trick, perhaps some of these discounted games will. Many of these premium games had their... | Read more »
Why the new Fire Emblem Heroes update sh...
It’s exciting to see Nintendo delving into the mobile sphere, regardless of whether it’s to give fans another platform to enjoy their fans or simply a sound business venture. Two of the company's announced mobile games have finally come to... | Read more »
New Fire Emblem Heroes update adds new h...
Fire Emblem Heroes received a sizeable update first thing this morning. The update features a batch of fresh content along with a few updates to the game's systems. [Read more] | Read more »
The Deep Paths (Games)
The Deep Paths 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: 25% off launch sale!!! The Deep Paths: Labyrinth Of Andokost is a first-person, dungeon crawling RPG, with traditional grid-based... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for up...
Amazon has 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2720.38 $79 off MSRP - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free: -... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Newegg has the 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (MMGG2LL/A) on sale for $1029.99 including free shipping. Their price is $170 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Choose Newegg... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $1...
B&H has 12″ 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1149 $150 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz... Read more
InTouch Health Expands iOS And Windows Produc...
Specialty telehealth enterprise provider InTouch Health has announced an expanded range of FDA Class I listed medical devices and software solutions for ambulatory, non-acute and non-emergent... Read more
iMobie Airs World’s 1st iCloud Manager with M...
iMobie Inc., an Apple-related software company, announced their newly-updated iPhone manager AnyTrans with exclusive feature to sync and manage contents across multiple iCloud accounts. With it,... Read more
New Proactive Apple Support Professional Cert...
Watchman Monitoring has announced Proactive Support Professional Certification at MacTech Pro. Watchman Monitoring is a premier Proactive Support Software as a Service (SaaS) tool for IT... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $... Read more
Back in stock: Apple refurbished 13-inch Reti...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $360 off original MSRP, starting at $1099. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* macOS Systems Integration Administra...
…most exceptional support available in the industry. SCI is seeking an Junior Apple macOS systems integration administrator that will be responsible for providing Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.