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Directories in the limelight

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SAN DIEGO -- Directories took center stage at The Burton Group's annual Catalyst Conference here Monday, with Novell taking the wraps off its long-awaited DirXML product and iPlanet International introducing a DAI (Directory Application Integration) architecture and the iPlanet Directory Server 5.

DirXML, based heavily on XML, acts as a link between the directory and business applications so that companies can integrate applications without altering the applications themselves. The software also allows the linking of data sources to access information "no matter where it resides," said Ed Anderson, director of product management for directory services at Provo, Utah-based Novell.

Novell's DirXML represents "a big step for us," Anderson said. "We're getting away from these specific point solutions to provide a framework that addresses the entire network spectrum."

"DirXML is more than [a metadirectory]," Anderson added. "DirXML provides certain links for synchronizing data, but using the XML piece, data flows by policy rather than just technology."

The DirXML engine will sit on top of eDirectory, between the access front end and the management back-end systems, providing the framework for developers to build applications. With the user information stored in the directory and other corporate data sources, DirXML drivers serve as a link to enable services such as provisioning, business-to-business extranet access, data access based on security policies, and CRM (customer relationship management).

"The DirXML engine enables all the business logic to be operated from the engine itself," said Nick Nikols, a DirXML architect at Novell, adding that DirXML drivers are written to be flexible so they can adapt to the XML formats of the application. "As long as [an application] has an interface, we can connect to it."

Anderson added that DirXML does require eDirectory for now, because "eDirectory is the only full-service directory that can provide what is needed." However, Novell is not opposed to running DirXML on other directories, but as of yet has not found a directory that offers what the company termed the distributed directory environment of eDirectory.

Novell will create solutions around DirXML and deliver the technology through its channels, starting with consulting partners and services. The company at Catalyst will be demonstrating an example involving a sample employee provisioning system, with PeopleSoft as the HR component and DirXML linking the corporate systems. More solutions will be delivered during the next few months, Anderson said.

Novell Monday also released Novell Single Sign-on (SSO) 2.0, including PassLogix' v-GO technology, which allows passwords for Windows 32, Web, and host emulator applications to be condensed behind one Novell Directory Services password. SSO will detect and serve up the correct password when presented with a log-on situation. The bundle is available August 4 at a price of $49 per user.

IPlanet's DAI architecture takes a role similar to DirXML, but focuses on giving application developers a way to incorporate directory information into their applications without having to understand the inner workings of LDAP. The DAI layer sits atop the company's Unified User Management Services, which include the iPlanet metadirectory, directory server, customer management application, policy server, and delegate administration components. Developers will be able to add pieces of personalized data from the directory by inserting tags into their applications, rather than having to write out the code.

"We needed to come up with a much easier way for application developers, specifically Web application developers, to talk their own language and grab information to use in their applications," said Wes Wasson, vice president of product marketing at Mountain View, Calif.-based iPlanet. "This is about making directories practical on that facet."

The iPlanet Directory Server 5, currently in beta testing and expected to be available by the end of the year, is intended for the company's largest customers that "have expanded past the capacity of a single machine," said David McNeely, director of product management for iPlanet directory and security products. He noted that Directory Server 5 will have more high-performance capabilities for handling dynamic data and will include class-of-service support based on user roles.

Wasson added that the increase in using directories for policy-based user management, security, and provisioning is due in part to the rise of e-business. Companies involved in e-commerce realized the benefits of the directory and started to look for more directory-enabled applications that could take advantage of the information stored in the directory and other corporate systems.

"We're acting under the premise that directories will be the killer app for the next era of e-business," Wasson said, adding that he believes the next phase of the Internet economy will be about linking up users, customers, partners, suppliers, and employees-a task well-suited for the directory, which "manages the human elements."

InfoWorldFor more enterprise computing news, visit Infoworld.com Copyright © 2000 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.


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