Directory Services


Microsoft® Active Directory® is a directory service that provides the foundation for distributed networks built on Windows 2000 and later domain controllers. The Active Directory APIs provide access to the data stored in a directory.

Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) is an independent mode of Active Directory that provides dedicated directory services for applications. The conceptual and programmatic compatibility of ADAM with Active Directory makes ADAM ideal for applications that require directory services, but do not require the complete infrastructure features of Active Directory.

Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI) is a set of COM interfaces used to access the capabilities of directory services from different network providers in a distributed computing environment, to present a single set of directory service interfaces for managing network resources. Administrators and developers can use ADSI services to enumerate and manage the resources in a directory service, regardless of the network environment that contains the resource.

ADSI enables efficiency in common administrative tasks, such as adding new users, managing printers, and locating resources throughout a distributed computing environment.

The Microsoft Exchange Server directory can be accessed using ADSI interfaces. With the ADSI interfaces, you can use high-level tools such as Microsoft Visual Basic®, Java, C, or Microsoft Visual C++® to create directory-enabled applications. With ADSI you need not be concerned about underlying differences between various directory implementations or namespaces because, in the provider-based model that ADSI supports, ADSI can serve as the interface to a number of directory services, accessing each one through its own provider.

This means that you can build applications that use a single point of access to multiple directories in the network environment, whether those directories are based on the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Novell Directory Services (NDS), or the Microsoft Windows NT® version 4.0 Security Account Manager (NTDS).

Where Applicable

Network Administrators can use directory services to automate common administrative tasks, such as adding users and groups, managing printers, and setting permissions on network resources.

Independent Software Vendors and end-user developers can use directory services to directory-enable their products and applications. Services can publish themselves in a directory, clients can use the directory to find services, and both can use the directory to find and manipulate other objects. Because Active Directory Service Interfaces are independent of the underlying directory services, directory-enabled products and applications operate successfully in multiple-network and multiple-directory environments.

Developer Audience

You can write Active Directory, ADAM, and ADSI client applications in many languages. For the majority of administrative tasks, ADSI defines interfaces and objects accessible from Automation-compliant languages like Visual Basic, Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript), and from the more performance-oriented languages such as C and C++. A familiarity with COM programming is useful to the ADSI programmer.

Run-Time Requirements

Active Directory runs on Windows 2000 and later domain controllers. However, you can develop and run Active Directory client applications on a number of platforms, such as Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows 95. Some platforms, such as Windows XP and Windows 2000, include built-in client components. Other platforms, such as Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows 95, require additional client components. These components are available from the MSDN Web site, which has more information about Active Directory and ADSI, including the latest information about platforms that support Active Directory client applications.

ADAM runs on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; or Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition for full operational functionality. Development for ADAM can occur on any of these Windows Server 2003 platforms. ADAM also runs on Microsoft Window XP Professional, with some functional limitations, for standalone development.

See Also

The Component Object Model

COM Clients and Servers

Programming Guide for Active Directory

Active Directory Start Page.

Programming Guide for Active Directory Application Mode

Active Directory Application Mode Start Page.

Programming Guide for Active Directory Service Interfaces

Active Directory Service Interfaces Start Page.

Programming Guide for Lightweight Directory Access Protocol

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Start Page.

Programming Guide for System.DirectoryServices

System.DirectoryServices Start Page.

Programming Guide for Directory Services Markup Language (DSML) Services for Windows

Directory Services Markup Language (DSML) Services for Windows Start Page.

Directory Services Data Exchange (DSDE) command line utility

Directory Services Data Exchange (DSDE) Start Page.