Why use zones?

A zone is similar to an Active Directory organizational unit (OU) or NIS domain. Zones allow you to organize the computers in your organization in meaningful ways to simplify the transition to Active Directory and the migration of user and group information from existing identity stores. The primary benefits to using zones are:

  • Identity management through user and group profile definitions
  • Access and authorization control through rights and role definitions
  • Delegated computer management for zone-based administrative tasks

Zones also enable you to centrally manage configuration policies for computers and users through group policies, but for most organizations the key considerations for designing a zone structure involve:

  • Identity management because zones enable you to migrate from a complex UID space, where a user can have multiple UIDs or different profile attributes on different computers or a single UID might identify different people depending on the computer being used. With zones, you can associate multiple UNIX profiles with a user and identify the correct profile attributes for any user on any given computer.
  • Access and authorization management because zones enable you to grant specific rights to users in specific roles on specific computers. By assigning roles, you can control who has access to which computers.
  • Delegated computer management because zones enable you to assign specific administrative tasks to specific users or groups on a zone-by-zone basis, allowing you to establish an appropriate separation of duties. With zones, administrators can be given the authority to manage a given set of computers and users without granting them permission to perform actions on computers in other zones or access to other Active Directory objects.

In most organizations, the first goal in designing the zone structure is to migrate users and computers from an existing identity store, such as NIS, NIS+, local files, or LDAP, to Active Directory and to do so with the least possible disruption to user activity, business services, and the existing infrastructure. Over time, you can also use zones to organize computers along departmental, geographical, or functional lines using whatever strategy works best for your organization.

Although Centrify supports a workstation mode that does not require you to create and manage zones—a single Auto Zone is defined instead—most organizations find using zones to be an essential part of their migration to Active Directory. The next sections provide more information about why zones are an important part of the planning process. For more information about using Auto Zone, see Deploying to a single Auto Zone.