Novell is extending its crown-jewel network directory, Novell Directory Services (NDS), to include management of network hardware from Cisco, which in turn is supporting the idea.
At Comdex last week, Novell demonstrated Java-based technology for configuring the devices, marking the first time NDS has been used to control Cisco's hardware.
NDS was also demonstrated configuring devices from Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies, which previously have endorsed NDS.
The Novell technology will work with all current Cisco routers and with Cisco's Internetwork Operating System routing software to let administrators set priorities by application, user, or group, and configure routers via NDS, from one console. Novell said the full NDS solution for managing Cisco routers is due by mid-2000.
In a related announcement last week, Cisco committed to interoperability between NDS and its CiscoAssure policy-based network software and other management tools. Cisco also announced that CiscoAssure will support public key infrastructures as well as Netscape's Certificate Server security software.
Directories will be critical to emerging policy-based network systems, which will let enterprises dole out network access and bandwidth on the basis of business needs.
"[Novell is] becoming one of the primary games in town in terms of policy-based networking," said John Morency, a principal analyst at Renaissance Worldwide.
Until now, Cisco has been publicly supporting Microsoft's Active Directory technology in Windows 2000, formerly known as Windows NT 5.0.
According to Tanya vanDam, product manager for Microsoft's Windows NT and Windows 2000, the announcement will not affect Microsoft's partnership with Cisco or its product direction for Active Directory.
According to one Cisco official, the vendor stands by its partnership with Microsoft and is working with Novell in order to support broad interoperability.
Customers said the technology could be a boon in environments that combine Cisco and NetWare.
Jim Atwood, a network analyst at Egelston Children's Health Care System in the US, uses both NT and NetWare and welcomes the flexibility he will have to implement policies.
But peace between vendors would be even better, Atwood said.
"Hopefully, one day Microsoft and NetWare will bury the hatchet and settle on a [directory] standard," Atwood said.