Windows NT 4.0 Domain Controllers Across RAS or Slow Links

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Windows NT 4.0 domain controllers that are members of the same domain can be configured across a slow link that is not continually connected, such as Remote Access Service (RAS) or slow WAN links. Although this configuration is possible, it is not recommended.

There are several problems with this type of network configuration:
  • Domain controllers attempt to communicate at regular intervals. When the link between domain controllers is not available, error messages are logged in Event Viewer.
  • If users attempt to change their password, they must be able to locate the primary domain controller (PDC). When the slow link is not available or the PDC is unreachable, users are unable to change their password.
  • When a backup domain controller (BDC) is not able to communicate with the PDC, the BDC's domain membership may be in jeopardy. This is because the secure channel password is maintained with the PDC. By default, this password is updated approximately every seven days and this operation may occur at a time when the link is unavailable.
  • A RAS or slow link that is continually unavailable may affect domain browsing. Browsing may not work as intended or individual computers may be missing from the browse list.
If you want to configure domain controllers that are members of the same domain across a slow link, it is recommended that you use Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS).

RRAS provides Dial on Demand routing capability, so domain controllers can connect as needed. If you choose to use RRAS and slow WAN links (for example, 56-Kbps links), use the following information to tune your systems for better performance.

Before you make changes to your system:
  • Document any error messages in the event log (System and Application error messages).
  • Determine if synchronization works. If it is not working now, find out what changes have been made (for example, find out if routers were added, and so on).
  • Determine whether or not optimization improves the synchronizations.
You may also want to use Network Monitor to discover the amount of network bandwidth available over the link. For additional information about Network Monitor, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
148942 How to Capture Network Traffic with Network Monitor

Performance Tuning Domain Synchronization Over Slow WAN Links

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The ReplicationGovernor Parameter

You may need to reduce the value of the ReplicationGovernor parameter. This parameter defines both the size of the data transferred on each call to the PDC, and the frequency of those calls. For example, setting the ReplicationGovernor parameter to 50% uses a 64-KB buffer rather than a 128-KB buffer, and has a replication call outstanding on the network only a maximum of 50 percent of the time.

This entry should be changed only if replication occurs across aslow WAN. Adjusting the ReplicationGovernor parameter does two things:
  • Reduces the size of the buffer used on each call from the BDC to the PDC, which ensures that a single call does not occupy the WAN link for too long.
  • Causes Netlogon essentially to "sleep" between calls, which allows other programs to gain access to the WAN link between calls to the PDC.
You can add the ReplicationGovernor parameter to a BDC using the following registry key:
ReplicationGovernor: REG_DWORD
Range: 0-100 percent
Default: 100
NOTE: This parameter must be set individually on each BDC.

Do not set the ReplicationGovernor parameter too low, or replication may never complete. A value of 0 causes Netlogon to never replicate, and the Security Accounts Manager (SAM)/Local Security Authority (LSA) database become completely out of synchronization.

It is also possible to configure different replication rates that are dependent on the time of day using a script file with the AT command (for example, NET STOP NETLOGON, REGINI SCRIPTFILE, NET START NETLOGON). Thescript file should contain the path to the ReplicationGovernor parameter and the new registry entries. Regini.exe is part of the Windows NT ResourceKit.

For additional information, please see the following articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
142692 Minimizing WAN Traffic
140422 Domain Synchronization Over a Slow WAN Link
140552 How to Optimize Windows NT to Run Over Slow WAN Links w/TCP/IP

The Pulse Parameter

All SAM/LSA changes made within this time are bundled together. After this time period has elapsed, a pulse is sent to each BDC that needs changes. No pulse is sent to a BDC that is up to date.

Increasing the Pulse parameter on the PDC reduces the number of replications between the PDC and the BDCs, and SAM changes are propagated less quickly. It is important to maintain a balance. For example, infrequent replication increases the number of connections to a PDC to validate changed passwords, while frequent replication results in up-to-date BDCs, but may generate excessive WAN traffic.
Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CCS\Services\NetLogon\Parameters
Value: Pulse
Data Type: REG_DWORD
Range: 60-172,800 seconds (48 hours)
Default: 300 (5 minutes)
The following example illustrates the potential problems with slow link connections and setting the Pulse parameter too low.

One PDC with a significant number of BDCs connects to one PDC through 56-Kbps link. Each time a network frame is exchanged between a BDC and the PDC, it costs one ISDN connection.
PDC parameters
Pulse: 3,600 seconds (1 hour)
PulseConcurrency: 1-10
In this case, the PDC may handle many user account transactions so that SAMchanges are common and occur often. Each time the PDC detects a SAM change, it contacts all of the BDCs. If you have 56-Kbps links, you may not want to have the BDCs' SAMs updated every hour. Because of the cost of synchronization, you may want to update the BDCs as little as once every24-48 hours.

Currently, if the Pulse parameter is set to its maximum value, the cost for transaction updates is the number of BDC connections every hour. For example, if there are 50 BDCs, there are 50 connections per hour.

Looking at this on a monthly basis, the cost of connections is even more apparent: 120 connections x 24 hours a day x 30 days a month = 86,400 connections/month.

For additional information, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
150350 NetLogon Maximum Value of Pulse Should Exceed 3600

The PulseMaximum Parameter

Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\NetLogon\Parameters
Value: PulseMaximum
Data Type: REG_DWORD
Range: 60-172,800 seconds (48 hours)
The PulseMaximum parameter defines the maximum pulse frequency (in seconds). Every BDC is sent at least one pulse at this frequency, whether or not its database is current.

NOTE: Replication takes place immediately if a change is made in LSA secrets, for example, when you add a workstation to the domain or change trust relationships.
For additional information, please see the following articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
130914 Number of Users and Groups Affects SAM Size of Domain
159211 Diagnoses and Treatment of Black Hole Routers

Article ID: 207552 - Last Review: 10/11/2013 22:02:46 - Revision: 1.1

  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition
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