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Active Directory Cookbook, 3rd Edition by Robbie Allen, Laura E. Hunter

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Chapter 3. Domain Controllers, Global Catalogs, and FSMOs

3.0. Introduction

Domain controllers are servers that host an Active Directory domain and provide authentication and directory services to clients. A domain controller (DC) can only be authoritative (i.e., it can only process authentication requests) for a single domain, but it can store partial read-only copies of objects in other domains in the forest if it is enabled as a global catalog server. All domain controllers in a forest also host a copy of the Configuration and Schema Naming Contexts, which are replicated to all domain controllers in a forest.

In Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, Active Directory domain controllers are fully multimaster in nature, meaning that updates to the directory (with a few exceptions, which we’ll discuss next) can originate on any domain controller in a forest. However, some tasks are sufficiently sensitive in nature that they cannot be distributed to all DCs, due to the potential of significant issues arising from more than one DC performing the same update simultaneously. For example, if two different domain controllers made conflicting updates to the schema, the impact could be severe and could result in data loss or an unusable directory. For this reason, Active Directory mandates the use of Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO, pronounced “fiz-mo”) roles. For each FSMO role, there is only one domain controller that acts as the role owner and performs the tasks associated with ...

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