How to Define a Network Directory in Lion Server

Lion Server can host a directory for your network of Mac, Windows, and Linux computers. It can also make use of a directory residing on other servers. And it can help integrate your Mac users into a Windows-based Active Directory network. Lion Server supports two directory brands: It can host the open source Open Directory and connect to Microsoft Active Directory.

When your entire network infrastructure consists of a computer on a desk in your living room, management of your user accounts and preferences is simple and straightforward. Your account and data are stored in one physical location. Add a second computer and maybe a laptop for travel, and you now have two or three sets of user accounts, passwords, and data.

Now multiply the computers by tens, hundreds, or thousands, and you see how managing users and data becomes beyond cumbersome in a large network. The solution is to create network directory services to aid managing many computer systems and users.

A network directory is a shared list of users, accounts, and other resources that reside on the network. From a single location, you can manage a directory of all this information for hundreds of users. A directory can reside in one server computer or can be handled by dozens of servers on a large network.

Directory services also handles the job of authenticating users, which confirms the identity of users logging in from a client computer. Directory services handles authentication for other services, such as e-mail or file sharing, or to the entire network, or for the entire network at once — known as single sign-on.

Electronic directories are similar to telephone books. Phone books organize people and business with their contact information and are divided into white and yellow pages. Network directories contain a hierarchical list of data that describes user accounts, attributes, and preferences, and can contain information about network resources. The data in a directory may be separated into containers associated with different physical locations, departments, or other conditions.

The structure of a directory’s database — the specific types of data it stores and how it’s stored — is called a schema. Strictly speaking, the directory consists of the schema and the data. Directory services is a collection of software that is the framework that shares the information among servers and clients and provides authentication.

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