Novell, Microsoft, and Netscape plan to link their respective directory products with enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications in a move that may mark the first real impact of the directory revolution on business processes.
Although vendors have for some time touted the benefits that directories promise - in the form of easier administration and management of users - users have yet to see any real benefit. But this could change when directories are integrated with ERP applications, which are traditionally among the most complicated to deploy and administer.
Novell is developing a solution that integrates Novell Directory Services (NDS) with PeopleSoft's Human Resources (HR) application for the automation of tasks such as creating new employee GroupWise accounts or updating employee contact information. The company is planning to make its plans public within a couple of months.
For its part, Microsoft this week announced that its forthcoming Active Directory will integrate with other major lines of business applications, including those from Baan, SAP, and J.D. Edwards. However, integration with PeopleSoft applications may not be forthcoming for some time: according to one source, PeopleSoft has refused to work with Microsoft until Active Directory is closer to shipping.
Netscape's contribution in this space takes the form of a consulting program designed to help its customers integrate their ERP applications with the Netscape directory.
Although most industry players agreed that it may take years before this market trend becomes a reality, they also agreed that this push is proof that directory services are going to play a key role in business operations.
"Customers are really asking for this, and it's just another sign that the directory is really maturing," said Jamie Lewis, president of The Burton Group. "Why repeat the information already stored in HR applications if you can propagate it securely with the directory?" Lewis added.