Cross-Platform Authentication Services

Cross-platform authentication is a term heard most often in IT departments that want to authenticate logons to Unix services using Microsoft’s Active Directory,[1] or authenticate logons to Windows clients using a Unix-based LDAP server. In this scenario, we’re not interested in interoperability between directory services, but between a specific directory service and nonnative clients (for example, Active Directory and Unix clients).

Cross-platform authentication is the Holy Grail for many administrators, not just those dealing with Microsoft operating systems. Novell’s eDirectory (formally called NDS) is available on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Solaris. Novell provides tools such as a PAM module for NDS to integrate host authentication services with their directory. However, while Microsoft does provide some tools and sample source code for integrating Unix clients into an Active Directory domain (, there is currently no way to implement an Active Directory domain using non-Microsoft servers and technologies.

In all fairness, Microsoft’s small offering of packages for Unix servers does not prevent Unix clients from using the user and group account information stored in an Active Directory domain. There are at least three methods for using Active Directory to authenticate Unix requests:

  • The NIS/Active Directory gateway included in Microsoft’s “Services ...

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