Major vendors bolster their electronic directory offerings

Government users will have more choices when it comes to electronic directory products following a wave of announcements from major industry vendors over the last several weeks.

On May 5 Netscape Communications Corp. introduced Directory Server 3.0 which supports Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Version 3.Novell Inc. announced that it will license its Novell Directory Services royalty free to hardware and software manufacturer Fujitsu Ltd. a move that is part of Novell's strategy to increase the market penetration of NDS.

Meanwhile Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. announced they will work together to port Microsoft's Active Directory for Windows NT 5.0 - expected out next year - to a variety of Unix systems.

A directory acts as a type of database that organizes and stores various kinds of information for a particular organization. Commonly it helps administrators keep track of computer devices and electronic addresses for users on a network by storing the information on a central server. Federal agencies have become increasingly interested in directory services technology [FCW March 3].

Building on LDAP

Netscape's Directory Server 3.0 builds on LDAP an increasingly popular mechanism that allows clients to access directories. The product supports LDAPv3 which the Internet Engineering Task Force is expected to ratify later this year. LDAPv3 already has wide industry support with companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. IBM Corp. Novell Oracle Corp. Banyan Systems Inc. and CheckPoint Software Technologies Ltd. announcing support for LDAPv3.

LDAPv3 includes several new features such as directory referral which will automatically send a query to the correct directory that contains the information requested.

Directory Server 3.0 comes with selective replication which allows agencies to query subsets of the directory said Frank Hecker the lead systems engineer in Netscape's government sales group. For example agencies can make certain directory information such as name and electronic-mail address available to the public but keep private other more sensitive information.

The announcement is significant for the government Hecker said because agencies now "can get the most out of X.500 directories. There are government X.500 directories deployed but there isn't a lot of client software that [can] use X.500 directories."

Sara Radicati president of The Radicati Group a consulting firm based in Palo Alto Calif. said that although more options are a good thing users should use caution before they buy into LDAPv3.

"I think users should be excited but should also be cautious because that hasn't been proven in the marketplace or in large installments " she said.

More NDS Support

Meanwhile Novell which said it will support LDAPv3 later this year announced it will license NDS royalty-free to hardware and software manufacturer Fujitsu expanding the support for an already popular product. Fujitsu said it will bundle NDS with every copy of its DS/90 Unix servers.

Novell earlier this year said it wants to make NDS available on Unix and Windows NT platforms. Already HP The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. among others have said they will use NDS as their directory service.

"We want to make NDS universal " said Richard Carlson director of Novell's major market operations. "We want to push NDS further into the marketplace." NDS is the most widely used directory service in the world he added.

Among other features NDS lets users view a distributed network as a single system and allows users to log in to the network only once for access to all network resources.

Microsoft Cisco Ally

In the Microsoft/Cisco directory alliance Cisco will integrate its Internetwork Operating System software which delivers network services and applications with Microsoft's Active Directory product.

The integrated product will be implemented on various Unix platforms and the companies will work together to enhance the product.

Active Directory will support LDAP Domain Name Service and Hypertext Transport Protocol standards which means that any client or server that adheres to these standards can access Active Directory.

The agreement according to Cisco means easier network management and tighter network security. For example there will be unified network administration and access can be granted or denied at the server operating system level and at the network level.


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