Novell officials last week revealed the company is plotting to port its directory services technology to Linux, giving the suddenly hot Unix variant yet another surge of momentum.
The company is building a version of Novell Directory Services (NDS) for Linux with Caldera Systems, a firm started four years ago by none other than Novell founder Ray Noorda.
The move is part of Novell's strategy to expand the presence of NDS before Microsoft's Active Directory Service hits the streets next year along with NT 5.0, says Chris Stone, Novell's senior vice president of strategy and corporate development.
The NDS for Linux development agreement, expected to be finalised later this month, extends a 2-year-old Novell-Caldera deal. Under the existing pact, Caldera has been licensing Novell's Cross Platform Services to provide NetWare file and print services on top of its Linux servers.
The new agreement would be the latest boost for Linux, a freeware edition of Unix that is currently employed by seven million users and positioned by some as an alternative to NT. Informix, Intel, Netscape and Oracle are among the big-name companies that in recent weeks have thrown their weight behind Linux through a variety of product announcements and investments.
NDS running natively on Linux will give administrators the ability to manage users, groups and access control rights across a network. It will also enable authorised users to sign on to a corporate network just once to access resources on machines running Linux and other NDS-enabled operating systems, such as NetWare, NT and Solaris. This will be the first commercially available directory service for Linux.
For Caldera, the union could make Linux more credible as an operating system for large corporate networks, according to Ransom Love, Caldera's president and CEO. "As each vendor embraces Linux and brings its respective strengths to the technology, Linux as a whole becomes a more viable alternative. Novell has a lot to add here in terms of the company's technology and distribution channels," Love says.
NDS for Linux will go beyond the capabilities of NetWare for Linux, a product Caldera began shipping in July. NetWare for Linux has some directory ties that allow a Linux server to sit on a NetWare network. But because no underlying integration exists with Linux's security structure, customers cannot currently use NDS to manage user access to any application running on a Linux server, says Michael Simpson, director of marketing at Novell.
Additionally, any product result-ing from this new agreement would be completely IP-based and support Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Version 3, Simpson says.
Some observers say cost could be the issue that will determine NDS for Linux's success. "If, after adding the cost of these services, the product on Linux turns out to cost more than on NT Server or NetWare, the product would have minimal adoption," says Neil Macdonald, a senior analyst with Gartner Group. On the other hand, if the cost is too low, "then an organisation might consider replacing its NetWare servers with Linux - a situation Novell will desperately try to avoid," he says.