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Vendors look to ease directory synchronization

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SAN DIEGO - Novell and the Sun-Netscape Alliance are trying to make it easier for large customers to synchronize, exchange and manage user data across a variety of systems.

Last week at The Burton Group Catalyst Conference, Novell announced that it is shipping its long-delayed metadirectory, DirXML, and several links, known as connectors, to other directories and messaging applications. Connectors let directories replicate changes with one application to another with Novell's NDS eDirectory at the center.

Metadirectory technology is seen as the key technology for tying together widely dispersed directories with an eye toward lowering user management costs, controlling access to applications and supporting e-commerce.

In September, Novell will announce 12 other connectors for e-business and other applications, including PeopleSoft human resources applications; the Open Database Connectivity and Java Database Connectivity and X.500 directory standards; Windows NT domains; X.500; BroadVision's e-business applications; and SAP applications. Novell will also link the IBM/Tivoli SecureWay, Entrust and iPlanet Directory Server with its Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) connector.

Those connectors will complement Novell's existing DirXML connectors for Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory, other Novell Directory Services directories, LDAP Version 3 and Lotus Notes. DirXML is based on NDS eDirectory and uses XML to link user data and create a metadirectory, which collates data from disparate directories and combines it into a logical whole.

Hellman Worldwide Logistics is using DirXML to do just that.

"We'll use DirXML to automatically add users into our ADP human resources application and to integrate disparate databases such as Lotus Notes and Oracle, which manage our e-mail directories," says Chip DiComo, network manager at the transportation firm in Miami. DiComo has NetWare 5.1 and uses NT to host Lotus Notes and applications hosted by Citrix MetaFrame.

Also in September, Novell will announce a series of e-business systems built around directory-enabled applications. Several of its consulting partners, including Deloitte & Touche and Andersen Consulting, will announce that they are building business systems based on Novell's DirXML. Deloitte & Touche, for instance, will announce that it is integrating data from PeopleSoft into NDS for its customers.

New iPlanet server

At Sun-Netscape, the firm gave a glimpse of the next release of its directory, the iPlanet Directory Server, which will include multimaster replication, load balancing, data partitioning and performance increases. In a multimaster replica, several copies of the directory exist on different servers, each synchronized with the other on a regular basis. Data partitioning lets directory replicas be divided into segments that are tailored for individual environments.

Sun-Netscape also rolled out a proprietary scripting language dubbed the Directory Application Interface (DAI), which works with XML, LDAP and Java Server Pages to build connectors. The company claims that DAI simplifies the creation of connectors, requiring developers to only know simple APIs and not the complexity of the directory.

DirXML and its connectors will be available on a contract basis with Novell Consulting Services for an unspecified price. DirXML requires NDS eDirectory, which costs $2 per user. Additional connectors will be available in September. IPlanet Directory Server and DAI will be available later this year. Sun-Netscape did not specify prices.

Novell: www.novell.com; Sun-Netscape: www.iplanet.com

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