After months of speculation, Novell announced last week that it has licensed its Novell Directory Services (NDS) technology to IBM.
As a result of the licensing deal, IBM said that it plans to make NDS available on its RS/6000 systems later this quarter and on its S/390 systems early next year - both at no charge to users.
IBM also is licensed to resell add-on direct-ory functionality from Novell, including directory-to-directory replication and NetWare file and print services.
According to Novell executives, NDS on RS/6000 systems should help network managers by providing a multiple platform directory infrastructure with a single security framework and interface, allowing them to treat Unix and LAN systems as a single entity.
The licensing deal is seen as an important step in Novell's strategy to position NDS as the de facto directory standard across multiple platforms.
Analysts acknowledged that Novell is succeeding in its plan to make NDS available on multiple platforms through licensing deals with other vendors. However, analysts pointed out that signing multiple deals is not necessarily an indicator that the technology is being widely used.
"Just because a company has a product for a platform doesn't mean that people have actually bought it and installed it," said Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst at IDC.
Analysts also cautioned that Novell's approach may not suit everyone.
Novell is promoting the concept of NDS as a universal directory, as opposed to the "metadirectory" approach, which retains multiple directories but allows them to be controlled from a single console.
Novell executives said that they see the need for metadirectories "for sinking legacy systems" but predicted that this would be a preliminary step towards a unified platform such as NDS.
IBM, however, is steering a middle path by attempting to offer both categories of solutions.
The company wants to support a "wide range of customers - those who want a meta- directory and those who want NDS and access to NetWare", according to Robert Henson, manager of software marketing for IBM's RS/6000 division.