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Flexible Single Master Operations

Windows 2000/2003 Multi-Master Model

A multi-master enabled database, such as the Active Directory, provides the flexibility of allowing changes to occur at any DC in the enterprise, but it also introduces the possibility of conflicts that can potentially lead to problems once the data is replicated to the rest of the enterprise.

One way Windows 2000/2003 deals with conflicting updates is by having a conflict resolution algorithm handle discrepancies in values by resolving to the DC to which changes were written last (that is, “the last writer wins”), while discarding the changes in all other DCs. Although this resolution method may be acceptable in some cases, there are times when conflicts are just too difficult to resolve using the “last writer wins” approach. In such cases, it is best to prevent the conflict from occurring rather than to try to resolve it after the fact.

For certain types of changes, Windows 2000/2003 incorporates methods to prevent conflicting Active Directory updates from occurring.

Windows 2000/2003 Single-Master Model

To prevent conflicting updates in Windows 2000/2003, the Active Directory performs updates to certain objects in a single-master fashion.

In a single-master model, only one DC in the entire directory is allowed to process updates. This is similar to the role given to a primary domain controller (PDC) in earlier versions of Windows (such as Microsoft Windows NT 4.0), in which the PDC is responsible for processing all updates in a given domain.

In a forest, there are five FSMO roles that are assigned to one or more domain controllers. The five FSMO roles are:

Schema Master:

The schema master domain controller controls all updates and modifications to the schema. Once the Schema update is complete, it is replicated from the schema master to all other DCs in the directory. To update the schema of a forest, you must have access to the schema master. There can be only one schema master in the whole forest.

Domain naming master:

The domain naming master domain controller controls the addition or removal of domains in the forest. This DC is the only one that can add or remove a domain from the directory. It can also add or remove cross references to domains in external directories. There can be only one domain naming master in the whole forest.

Infrastructure Master:

When an object in one domain is referenced by another object in another domain, it represents the reference by the GUID, the SID (for references to security principals), and the DN of the object being referenced. The infrastructure FSMO role holder is the DC responsible for updating an object’s SID and distinguished name in a cross-domain object reference. At any one time, there can be only one domain controller acting as the infrastructure master in each domain.

Note: The Infrastructure Master (IM) role should be held by a domain controller that is not a Global Catalog server (GC). If the Infrastructure Master runs on a Global Catalog server it will stop updating object information because it does not contain any references to objects that it does not hold. This is because a Global Catalog server holds a partial replica of every object in the forest.

As a result, cross-domain object references in that domain will not be updated and a warning to that effect will be logged on that DC’s event log. If all the domain controllers in a domain also host the global catalog, all the domain controllers have the current data, and it is not important which domain controller holds the infrastructure master role.

Relative ID (RID) Master:

The RID master is responsible for processing RID pool requests from all domain controllers in a particular domain. When a DC creates a security principal object such as a user or group, it attaches a unique Security ID (SID) to the object.

This SID consists of a domain SID (the same for all SIDs created in a domain), and a relative ID (RID) that is unique for each security principal SID created in a domain. Each DC in a domain is allocated a pool of RIDs that it is allowed to assign to the security principals it creates.

When a DC’s allocated RID pool falls below a threshold, that DC issues a request for additional RIDs to the domain’s RID master. The domain RID master responds to the request by retrieving RIDs from the domain’s unallocated RID pool and assigns them to the pool of the requesting DC. At any one time, there can be only one domain controller acting as the RID master in the domain.

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