Novell Inc. has made the latest foray into the increasingly competitive world of network directory systems with its decision to offer broad licensing of its Novell Directory Service (NDS) to operating system vendors without a royalty fee. This move may be the most significant among the recent attempts to establish a single commonly used directory for applications and services across multiple operating systems, applications, servers and the Internet.
Agreements have already been established between Novell and major Unix vendors Hewlett-Packard and SCO; the latter has been shipping NDS with its products for several months. Sun Microsystems has recently announced support for NDS on Solaris and announcements from other companies are expected, Novell says. In addition, large Internet service providers such as AT&T and Nippon Telephone and Telegraph are hosting NDS and creating a secure pipeline between companies that use NDS. Clearly, Novell is hoping to build on the base of 17 million NetWare local-area network (LAN) users by making its directory a tool for finding resources across the Internet as well.
"We believe there is a need in the industry now for some standardization in the directory and security space."
"We believe there is a need in the industry now for some standardization in the directory and security space, to create greater interoperability," said Michael Simpson, directory of marketing for Novell's Internet infrastructure division in Provo, UT. "Everybody wants to get to the point of electronic commerce and there are some barriers to the adoption of that. Our approach is massive adoption of our directory by allowing it to be seeded into the market. This directory is already proven in the NetWare environment, so everyone knows it does solve problems there. We want that value to now transcend all the operating systems and applications."
Hewlett-Packard has incorporated NDS as part of its IT collaboration program the goal of which is to unify Unix, the Internet and NetWare environments. "We see NDS as a key element of the program," said David Scott, directory of operating environment marketing for HP's general systems division in Cupertino, CA. "It offers an element of integration for customers from an administrative and management perspective for those multiple environments."
Novell actually is licensing only a single-server version of NDS (formerly known as NetWare Directory Services). So to get the full benefit of NDS, the user must unlock the server-to-server application inside the single server version by paying a fee to Novell through a reseller or original equipment manufacturer (OEM). That's how Novell plans to profit from NDS proliferation.
In addition, Novell has made NDS support the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), the emerging front-running protocol in the push for greater interoperability among competing directory systems. Other directories supporting LDAP include Netscape Communications Corp.'s Netscape Directory Server and Banyan Systems' StreetTalk directory, part of its Vines network operating system. Lotus Development Corp. is also working on LDAP support for its Lotus Pages X.500 directory server.
LDAP is a streamlined version of the Directory Access Protocol, both of which are used to access data from an X.500 directory. The Internet Engineering Task Force devised X.500 to be the prevailing Internet directory access standard. LDAP has become more popular than DAP because it requires less processing power and supports the widely available TCP/IP protocol. Although LDAP itself won't answer the question of which directory to use, the lack of LDAP support would probably eliminate a product from contention. LDAP has finally made it possible for users to access LAN directories through such pervasive applications as the Netscape Navigator Web browser.
"Which of the several network directory services will prevail is still a matter for speculation."
Ironically, Novell has taken a page from Netscape's marketing book in its royalty-free licensing. Netscape first established itself by offering its World Wide Web browser free over the Internet. Navigator subsequently became the most widely used browser.
Which of the several network directory services will prevail is still a matter for speculation. "The reality is that there will be a number of different directory engines supported in customers' environments for some time to come," says HP's Scott. "But with standards like LDAP, we will be able to integrate them better. Clearly there's a lot of fragmentation in the marketplace as to the use of different directory services. Our goal at this stage is to support all of the leading directory services on our platform." The security system that users choose will play an equally important part in unifying the various environments, Scott says.
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