The university plans to have single log-in passwords for nDeva (student administration), CECIL (management studies teaching system) and NetAccount (for managing printer, photocopier and internet accounts) by June.
The databases sit on a range of hardware and software platforms: nDeva runs on Peoplesoft and covers all students and a large number of past students; CECIL is web-based with 5000 users; and NetAccount has 7000 active accounts which are accessed from a mixture of Macintosh, Unix and Windows workstations.
Common authentication across various systems is the first phase of the Active Directory project, says Nevil Brownlee, the university's director of technology development.
The university started an Active Directory pilot last February and was satisfied at an early stage with the basic software and its ability to handle large amounts of user data covering more than 200,000 names, including past students.
"We also wanted to make sure it was possible to use it from Macintosh and Unix systems so we put quite a bit of effort into verifying that," says Brownlee.
The next step was investigating whether it was possible to integrate Active Directory with Peoplesoft. Brownlee says this was the most difficult part of the project because interfaces between the two had very little documentation.
"Neither Microsoft nor Peoplesoft had other sites which had seriously tried to do this on a large scale," he says.
Implementing the directory is also part of the university's migration to Windows 2000 and campus-wide management of the 60 to 70 NT 4.0 domains that had sprouted due to a rise in the number of centralised applications such as Peoplesoft, was also a reason to deploy.
Brownlee says he turned to a handful of useful texts to help with the project, including Windows 2000 Active Directory Design and Deployment, by Gary Olsen and Ty Loren Carlson (New Riders Publishing), and Windows 2000 Active Directory, by Alistair Lowe-Norris (O'Reilly).
The Active Directory project has a full-time technician and project manager and a part-time consultant working on the Peoplesoft integration.