"Microsoft Windows 2000 Server introduces Active Directory to replace domain functionality. Active Directory will continue to get the job done, but in a much more efficient way. Active Directory can be replicated between multiple domain controllers, so no single system is critical. In this way, the crucial data stored within Active Directory is both redundant and load-balanced.
A directory, in the most generic sense, is a comprehensive listing of objects. A phone book is a type of directory that stores information about people, businesses, and government organizations. Phone books typically record names, addresses, and phone numbers. Active Directory is similar to a phone book in several ways, and it is far more flexible. Active Directory will store information about organizations, sites, systems, users, shares, and just about any other network object that you can imagine. Not all objects are as similar to each other as those stored in the phone book, so Active Directory includes the ability to record different types of information about different objects." [technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb742424.aspx]
The AD diagram example "Active Directory structure diagram" was created using the ConceptDraw PRO diagramming and vector drawing software extended with the Active Directory Diagrams solution from the Computer and Networks area of ConceptDraw Solution Park.