Novell Directory plan under fire

Network World |  Networking

PROVO, UTAH -- Novell last week proposed a new Internet domain that would make it easier for companies engaged in e-commerce to integrate corporate directories.

The plan is drawing both praise and heavy criticism.

Novell is pushing a ".dir" global Top Level Domain (gTLD), which would identify a company's directory to its trading and business partners and allow for integration of user identity data from multiple companies.

Novell made the proposal as part of an effort by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to add new TLDs to the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS). DNS is a hierarchical database for locating servers on the Internet.

DNS would be used to locate directories, but questions remain about how the directories would be integrated. Novell's proposal includes using its proprietary technology, called federated directories, which will ship this month in the company's eDirectory 8.5.

"The intent is to have a place where we can pull together all directories," says Winston Bumpus, director of open technologies and standards at Novell and chairman of the Directory Interoperability Forum (DIF) within the vendor consortium, The Open Group. "We want the directory visible in a standard way. All DNS is doing is providing a rendezvous point so directories can talk to each other."

With .dir, a company's directory would be identified by the .dir extension at the end of its domain name. For example, a company called Magnet Parts could use the domain www. magnetparts.com.dir.

"I think .dir is a great idea," says Richard Reid, manager of worldwide messaging and directory services at True North Communications, an advertising agency in Chicago. "Businesses will know that everything in that TLD is a directory and that you can work with it."

One vendor agrees that .dir could be the point of entrance into a company's directory.

"Any company, like Coca-Cola, should have a .dir domain," says Blair Thomas, vice president of marketing for NetPro, a directory management company in Phoenix.

Although observers say .dir is a clever idea, some believe Novell is trying to make an end run around existing standards.

DIF is not behind Novell's proposal, says Mark Wahl, co-chair of DIF's Service Provider Directory-Enabled Network Applications working group and Sun's chief architect of unified user management services for iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions.

Furthermore, Wahl says Sun was not aware of the proposal and that "today's domain names work fine for mail, Web, directory and [business-to-business] applications. [Sun/Netscape's] iPlanet recommends the use of the IETF's RFC 2247 and traditional domain names," he says.

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