Start-up UnboundID unveils directory for Web 2.0

High scale, performance target identity, personalization.

Directory start-up UnboundID slipped out of stealth mode Tuesday and introduced a scalable and high performance standards-based platform aimed at handling the identity and personalization demands of Web-based services and mobile computing.

The UnboundID Directory Server, which is based on the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol V3, combines qualities found in directory and database technologies to create an identity platform for large service providers and corporate networks. (Compare identity management products) 

As part of the announcement, Alcatel-Lucent said it is using the UnboundID Directory Server as the foundation for its platform to support personalized Web 2.0 and communications services over wired and mobile networks. Alcatel-Lucent also has signed on to be the exclusive reseller of the technology to the telco industry.

UnboundID, founded by four former Sun employees, is built around the open-source OpenDS directory code that the foursome developed at Sun. The founders -- Don Bowen, David Ely, Stephen Shoaff and Neil Wilson -- have now added numerous specialized extensions to the code to improve its scale and performance, defining their commercial product.

The software is part directory, with such features as replication and high-volume data reads, and part database, including notifications and alerts. The result is a directory that can offer high-speed data retrieval and updates and transaction-like access to that information in real-time.

“It appears they are carving out a part of the [directory] market at the high end dealing with massive scale and extreme performance requirements,” says Gerry Gebel, an analyst with the Burton Group. Gebel says the needs to meet those requirements go well beyond the telco industry. “Historically that is the segment that has dealt with those requirements, but as identity on the Internet becomes more prominent and more prevalent then you are going to see similar Internet properties that have similar scale and performance requirements.”

Gebel said those “properties” would be similar to an AOL, eBay or PayPal that can have hundreds of millions of entries in their directories. “As they try to expand the services they offer or connectivity to different application services on the Internet, then some of these performance requirements are escalated,” Gebel says.

UnboundID developed the software with the thought that directories used for large scale identity and personalization services would need to not only quickly read information but also write new information or update existing information, such as refreshing a user’s whereabouts as they move from cell tower to cell tower during a phone call.

Company executives say the directory can handle more than 50,000 searches and 10,000 updates, or writes, to the directory per second.

Unbound ID gives users the ability to talk to the directory like they would talk to a database. In addition, the directory supports the database concept of triggers, which can alert administrators that disk space is shrinking or provide users with an alert if their password is about to expire.

The platform also uses directory replication to provide redundancy and performance benefits that can’t be had with just a database.

Another directory technology used to speed performance is the ability to update the directory with attribute changes that are only made when needed by a specific user. Conversely, database updates must immediately change every single record to include the new information whether it is needed or not.

“We can provide in some cases up to an 80% reduction in storage, a 3-5X reduction in the amount of memory that is used and supply the equivalent of a 3-5X read/write performance increase,” says Bowen, cofounder and vice president of marketing for UnboundID.

While the directory is the first product from UnboundID, the company plans to offer a suite of software, including migration tools that will let users run their existing systems in parallel with UnboundID or cut over in one move. The company also will provide synchronization between identity repositories.

The company also plans to push the technology to cloud providers, who could offer identity services for authentication and authorization to any number of disparate online applications.

UnboundID Directory Server will be priced on a per instance, per server pack and via enterprise licensing. A directory with less than a million entries would start at about $150,000 to $200,000.

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