The delay of Microsoft's Windows 2000 release may give Novell a leg-up in the enterprise directory interoperability race, with Cisco Systems not slated to deliver Active Directory on Unix platforms until after Windows 2000's planned release in February.
According to sources close to Cisco, the company will release Active Directory on Unix after Windows 2000, although there had been talk about releasing it this year.
Novell Directory Services' (NDS) eDirectory, introduced by Novell CEO Eric Schmidt at Comdex in Las Vegas last month, is an NDS-based service designed to work across corporate and public networks to combine companies' electronic-business solutions. It captures customers' and partners' identity information for increased personalisation. Currently running on multiple platforms, eDirectory will be expanded to Windows 2000, Linux, and Compaq's Tru64 in early 2000.
"eDirectory provides that underlying platform to which you can add things like identity management services, security, authentication, all of those in-the-Net services," said Steve Adams, recently named vice president of global marketing at Novell.
According to Novell's Australia/New Zealand managing director, Cliff Smith, Microsoft faces a tough battle to release sound directory products that can technically compete with 11 years of Novell development.
"We're just not going to see something fully fledged from the womb of Seattle in February," he said. "They just can't replicate the technology we have so quickly."
Smith agreed that Microsoft's delay does spell opportunity for the channel, indicating the company has "100 per cent support" from its large reseller base.
"We must now communicate that message effectively," he said.
Analysts said that focusing on interoperability is a way for Novell to take advantage of the situation presented by Active Directory's delay.
"Novell's window of opportunity is now," said Dan Kusnetsky, program director for operating environments and servers at analyst International Data Corp. "They are trying to point at the places where they are strong, and what is known about Active Directory indicates it will be weak. A new product that's in beta testing can be anything, and it's really hard to compete with the shadow of a beta test product."
However, Kusnetsky believes that Novell must leverage the strength of its directory technology before Microsoft's marketing machine shifts into high gear.
"My guess is Novell is facing an interesting battle that has almost nothing to do with technology and everything to do with grand vision and positioning," Kusnetsky said.
Analysts noted that Novell must convince businesses that directories are a vital piece of their infrastructure, especially in the electronic-commerce real.
"I firmly believe that [Schmidt] knows Novell has had trouble getting the directory message out, and he also knows that's got to be fixed," said Tim Sloane, managing director of Internet infrastructure research at analyst Aberdeen Group. "Novell understands that they've got this problem - it's driving them nuts, and they're trying to fix it."