Windows Server: Should the Infrastructure Master FSMO Role be Placed on a Global Catalog Server?

Windows Server: Should the Infrastructure Master FSMO Role be Placed on a Global Catalog Server?



Article Summary: This article provides information on whether the infrastructure master FSMO role should be placed on a global catalog server.


The infrastructure master is one of the five Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO) roles assigned to one or more domain controllers (DCs) in an Active Directory forest. In a forest that contains more than one domain, it is the job of the infrastructure master to keep cross-domain references up to date. That is, if an object in domain A contains references to objects in domain B, the infrastructure master in domain A is responsible for updating those references whenever the actual objects are modified.

The infrastructure master communicates regularly with a global catalog server in order to keep cross-domain references up to date. A global catalog server stores a partial set of attributes of every object within an Active Directory forest and regularly replicates changes to other global catalog servers in the forest. When the infrastructure master detects that a cross-domain reference is out of date, it obtains updated data from a global catalog server and replicates the updated data to other DCs in its own domain.

This process functions well in most cases; however, it fails if the infrastructure master is itself a global catalog server. The reason for this is explained in Microsoft Knowledgebase article 248047: Phantoms, Tombstones, and the Infrastructure Master. Because of this, the infrastructure master must be placed on a DC that is not a global catalog server. This restriction is often repeated and is fairly well known.

However, it is less well known that there are two situations in which the infrastructure master can be placed on a global catalog server with no ill effects:

  • There is only one domain in the forest. In an Active Directory forest containing only one domain, there are no cross-domain references at all, and the infrastructure master has nothing to do. For this reason, it can be placed on any DC.
  • Every DC in the domain is a global catalog server. In a multi-domain forest, if every DC in a particular domain is a global catalog server, replication of global-catalog data will keep cross-domain references up to date, and that domain's infrastructure master can be placed on any DC. Making every DC a global catalog is recommended now, though this has not always been the case.
    Note: Since each domain has its own infrastructure master, some domains in a multi-domain forest may have restrictions on its placement even if others do not.

For information on the function of each FSMO role, see Operations Master Roles.





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Article ID: SLN266060

Last Date Modified: 07/17/2015 01:06 PM


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