Over the next few weeks, Novell will begin the battle to persuade customers to use the next release of its directory service instead of Microsoft's yet-to-be-released Active Directory.
Novell's release - which will be called Novell Directory Services Version 8 (NDS 8) - will be standards-based, more scalable and will have the ability to synchronise information contained in its data store with that of other directories.
While NDS 8 won't ship for another 12 to 18 months, the company last week started briefing industry analysts. Novell early next month will tell all 6000 of its loyal users at the annual Brainshare conference in Salt Lake City.
NDS 8 will be a native Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) implementation, which will make the directory service accessible by any client software, able to host any application, and capable of interoperating with other directory services that support the emerging LDAP standard, say sources familiar with the product. Novell already offers add-on LDAP support, but native support will provide end users with LDAP-based client software so they can get to NDS information more quickly. This deeper-level support for LDAP will also provide better interoperability with other LDAP-based directories, such as those from Netscape and Oracle.
NDS 8 will run on multiple operating system platforms including NetWare, Windows 2000, Linux, Sun Solaris and IBM's OS/390 mainframe system. NDS 8 will use metadirectory features supplied by Novell's Utah neighbour NetVision that will allow the directory to automatically synchronise user information with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange databases. Company officials say NDS 8 is so scalable that there is no limit to the number of directory objects it can hold.
NDS 8 will scale in two ways. For corporate use, Novell will make NDS simpler to distribute and easier to manage across multiple sites. From its inception, NDS was built to be distributed, but NDS 8 has features such as federated partitions, which let an IS manager establish autonomous directory segments according to corporate structure. For the more centralised directories required by ISPs that want to offer Web services on a per-user basis, Novell has changed the underlying NDS database technology to hold huge amounts of directory data.
Half a billion objects
At an analyst briefing held last week in Boston, Chris Stone, Novell's senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, said NDS 8 has been tested with up to half a billion objects - directory entries such as a user name, password or security certificate. The current version of NDS supports one million objects.
Industry analysts familiar with the overall plan say Novell's NDS marketing effort is a thinly veiled attempt to fend off Microsoft's yet-to-be-shipped Active Directory.
"Hands down, NDS 8 is impressive," says Laura DiDio, an analyst with the Massachusetts-based Giga Information Group. "And technologically, Novell has got a three- to four-year lead on Microsoft. But in reality, Novell only has a six- to nine-month window to convince the world of that before Active Directory starts taking hold."
Novell must make some drastic marketing moves - such as reducing or even eliminating the $US26 per end user fee it charges for NDS for NT - so more current users running NT can get a look at NDS 8 before they see Active Directory, DiDio says.