1 Introduction

It is useful to review the Active Directory Technical Specification, as specified in [MS-ADTS], the Netlogon Remote Protocol Specification, as specified in [MS-NRPC], and the Security Account Manager (SAM) Remote Protocol Specification (Client-to-Server), as specified in [MS-SAMR] before reading this document to understand the context and dependencies for this protocol.

The Security Account Manager (SAM) Remote Protocol (Server-to-Server) is used by Domain controllers (DCs) to forward time-critical database changes to the primary domain controller (PDC); it is also used to forward time-critical database changes from a read-only domain controller (RODC) to a writable naming context (NC) replica within the same domain but outside the normal replication protocol. This protocol is used only between Active Directory servers in the same domain. Beginning with the Windows Server 2008 operating system, this protocol was extended to forward certain non–time-critical write operations from an RODC to a writable NC replica.

The SAM Remote Protocol (Server-to-Server) is motivated by the requirement to propagate a subset of database changes to the PDC more quickly than the Directory Replication Service (DRS) Remote Protocol (as specified in [MS-DRSR]). This rapid propagation is used for sensitive information when the delay imposed by standard Active Directory replication creates either an unwelcome burden on the user or creates a risk to the enterprise. An example of the former is a password change operation; if the password is not made available rapidly, a user can experience unpredictable authentication failures as the new password is tried against domain controllers that have not yet replicated it. An example of the latter is when an account is locked out due to multiple password failures; the lockout condition, and, equally important, the lockout-cleared condition, must be propagated rapidly throughout the domain.

Windows Server 2008 introduced a new type of domain controller, the RODC. Extensions to the protocol are motivated by the requirement to support the chaining of certain write operations such as when a machine sends a request to an RODC to change its password, as specified in [MS-NRPC] section 1.3.4. The RODC cannot service the database change but instead sends the change request over the SAM Remote Protocol (Server-to-Server) to a Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, Windows Server 2012 operating system, Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system, or Windows Server 2016 operating system DC that applies the database change. Similarly, there are a few messages specified in the SAM Remote Protocol (Client-to-Server) that request database changes, and, when an RODC receives these, they are forwarded to a writable NC replica. Because these messages are part of [MS-SAMR], they are described in detail within that specification. However, when received at an RODC, they are forwarded to another DC; therefore, the message processing to affect the forwarding is described in this specification. Within this specification, these methods are referred to as forwarded SAM Remote Protocol (Client-to-Server) messages.

The complement of this behavior, which is not addressed in this protocol, is the logic within the Active Directory servers, which synchronizes server replication state with that of the PDC when a corresponding failure occurs. That is, there is code within the Active Directory components to pull the current state of an account from the PDC when an authentication failure occurs, using the fact that if the password was changed recently, the PDC has a more up-to-date copy.

This protocol is used in Windows 2000 Server operating system, Windows Server 2003 operating system, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2016 (but not in Windows NT 4.0 operating system). The motivation for this protocol does not exist in Windows NT 4.0 because, in version 4.0, only one DC can accept updates; therefore, a centralized DC with the most up-to-date information exists naturally. Because Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2016 support multi-master updates across all DCs, this protocol was invented to address the lack of a centralized, most-up-to-date source of password information.

Sections 1.5, 1.8, 1.9, 2, and 3 of this specification are normative. All other sections and examples in this specification are informative.