January 26, 2001, 6:11 PM — Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. both delivered key metadirectory products this week. Novell rolled out its long-anticipated DirXML, while Microsoft released Microsoft Metadirectory Services (MMS) 2.2.
Metadirectories synchronize information among directories, centralizing control of user identity for administrators. Such "products are critical to directories because very few enterprises are standardizing on any one directory product," said Michael Hoch, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston.
DirXML and MMS 2.2 will be available only as part of consultancy agreements. "The whole metadirectory function is so complicated that you need a consultant to install it," said Hoch.
DirXML, which requires Novell Directory Services (NDS) eDirectory, converts directory information into XML. Michael Dortch, an analyst at Robert Frances Group in San Francisco, said DirXML has an advantage over competitors because XML is emerging as the standard for data interchange and many applications are expected to be able to read XML data. "It's becoming the lingua franca," said Dortch.
By contrast, Microsoft must overcome user skepticism, he said. "The question really becomes, if you are living in a heterogeneous environment, do you trust Microsoft to handle the other environments as equals?" Dortch said.
MMS 2.2, which is based on technology Microsoft acquired from Zoomit Corp. last year, is the first MMS version to be integrated with Active Directory. Dortch said he believes it will take another 12 to 18 months before Active Directory becomes widely adopted.
Michael Brown, director of technology at Yellow Transportation LLC in Denver, addressed directory synchronization by moving off NetWare and implementing an all-Microsoft network with Windows NT and SQL Server. "It's a shame, because Novell has a more robust directory," said Brown. However, the market momentum is behind Microsoft, making a move off NetWare and NDS "an inevitability," he said.
Separately, NetVision Inc., an Orem, Utah-based vendor of directory synchronization tools, said it would give away a basic version of its Synchronicity software and charge for services. NetVision is considered to be more limited than DirXML but easier to use.
Novell also introduced last week two single sign-on systems based on NDS eDirectory: NDS Authentication Services 3.0 and a new bundle of Novell Single Sign-on 2.0 with the v-Go client-based software from Passlogix Inc.
"It's amazingly easy to implement," said Tom Davis, senior security coordinator at Indianapolis Power & Light Co., who has been beta-testing the Passlogix and Novell bundle.