The problem of managing multiple directories of data is almost as old as computing is (well not quite...but almost).
The implementation of microcomputer systems meant that it became all too easy to hold your own little copy of information that you used in your day-to-day business—customer details, internal company numbers, and so on. Thus, most employees would hold a copy of some sort of information that the business required.
Companies have tried hard to convince their employees to share the information, and some very clever databases, customized directories, and custom written applications have helped to achieve this.
Many organizations have multiple stores of information that are usually scattered throughout the enterprise (the Gartner Group estimates that a medium organization can have more than 150 data stores!!), and each and every one of these data stores requires some form of management. And what's worse is the amount of administrative effort required by the users of each these systems to keep the information in each one current and up-to-date.
Let's take a practical look at what it is like for companies that have all of these data stores to manage.
A Real-World Example of Information Systems Management
For example, suppose that you are the IT manager for a medium-sized organization. Your company's primary business is to sell several thousand widgets to a fairly large customer base.
As part of your control, you need to look after the following systems:
PeopleSoft HR system
Active Directory for user accounts
Exchange for email
Legacy Lotus Notes (information is slowly being migrated out)
Custom written SQL database for intranet/extranet
Other smaller customer management systems
Your day-to-day job requires you to ensure that your staff members are keeping the data in these systems up-to-date, and you spend many hours ensuring that the business rules of the organization are followed.
The business rules that the company implements are generally those that most businesses have. You must ensure that when employees are hired, their details are set up in each of the systems (that is, they have user account in AD, they are set up in Exchange and the intranet, and their pay details are entered within PeopleSoft.
After awhile, your business develops a process flow that allows all of these systems to be updated, but the process is slow, and a lot of manual effort and emails are required. Besides, users are complaining that they are having a difficult time keeping their details in sync in all of the different stores.
Each of the different systems uses a different way of identifying users: AD uses logon IDs, Exchange uses a mailbox name, Peoplesoft uses a Staff ID, and so on. This makes it very hard for the users of each system to know what ID to use with which system.
After several months of complaining staff members and very irate administration staff, you reach the breaking point. So what to do, what to do?
You decide that now is the time to bring in a consultant (not just any consultant, but the best KPMG Consulting Inc. – KCI - consultant), to help you out in your quest.
You meet your new consultant at the door. After an hour or so of showing him around your business and systems, your new friendly consultant says, "I think I know what you need—a very clever product called MMS."
Well being most impressed, you ask the consultant to explain about MMS a little more. After all, he at least had a suggestion when you thought your situation was hopeless.
"Well", he begins, "Microsoft Metadirectory Services (MMS) is a new Microsoft product, but it is not a new product at all. It was originally developed by a Canadian company, and was called Via ZoomIT."
Nodding with interest, you encourage him to continue. And that's when he mentions that MMS is actually a repository. Feeling totally despondent, you proclaim, "You are telling me that to solve my problem with having so many disparate information sources I need yet another information store? You have got to be kidding!"