I was reminded recently of how complex and yet how important Active Directory (AD) is as I tried to explain AD basics to a group of circulation and marketing people. I think they got it, but I'm glad I didn't take them deeper into the forest—we would have had to scatter breadcrumbs to get them—and me—out safely. At the least, I hope they have a new appreciation for what admins are up against. I definitely have a new appreciation for admins after talking with the folks from Imanami, a company that specializes in group lifecycle solutions in AD and Microsoft Exchange.

A solution just for managing groups? Talk about drilling down into the particulate matter of AD. But although managing groups in the AD/Exchange management area is typically a mundane task, it's also one that's too important to delegate. Groups need to be accurate or you're going to have problems—and yet, you can be on top of group management and still, as Imanami's CEO/CTO Robert Haaverson says, "The minute you update a group, it's out of date."

In the case of mergers and acquisitions, as companies attempt to merge multiple AD forests, "the group becomes a nightmare," adds Edward Killeen, Imanami's director of sales and marketing. "You get 'group glut'—no one focuses on exiting the groups from the directories." He added that seventy percent of companies don't do anything and of the remainder that do act, twenty percent use a manual approach—an end user calls and requests a change. Why is this a problem? Security, for one thing. And the drain on IT staff time.

Imanami offers solutions that work together to ease several challenges of group management. Imanami SmartDL reads AD, applies a query, and builds groups. To make that solution work, AD has to be accurate. Enter another Imanami solution, Directory Transformation Manager, which keeps AD updated and automatically synchronizes changes.

Imanami's market is "anyone who has AD and Exchange," Killeen says, with anywhere from 250 users to thousands of users. The price of the solutions varies; some can run $5 to $20 per user. Imanami will be announcing more product news at Microsoft TechEd in June. To learn more about Imanami, go to imanami.com.