Major vendors back XML directory

Computer World –

Backed by several industry giants, start-up company Bow Street Software Inc. announced today it is taking initial steps to write open-source specifications for standardizing XML as the lingua franca for network directories.

Flanked by representatives from Microsoft Corp., IBM, Novell Inc., Oracle Corp. and the Sun Microsystems Inc.-Netscape Communications Corp. Alliance, Bow Street officials said a consensus is growing that XML (Extensible Markup Language) can be the standard for directory services that will enable businesses to move toward coordinating networks over the Internet.

"We believe directories are the only appropriate service platform to usher in the trend toward Internet management, support channels, customer service and all kinds of business applications," said Jack Serfass, president and CEO of Bow Street, during a teleconference yesterday at the Catalyst 99 Conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "And XML represents a whole new world for these business services."

This is the first joint venture between the major directory vendors. Only last week, several of the industry's big guns made separate announcements that they were independently working to make their directories interoperable. They received widespread analyst and user criticism that only joint efforts would lead to true interoperability.

While this week's announcement won't eventually make the directories interoperable, it could create a bridge between the various directories that would help them communicate.

Bow Street, based in Portsmouth, N.H., will coordinate an effort to develop a Directory Services Markup Language (DSML), Serfass said. More information about the project is available at, although proposed specifications will not be publicly available for two to three months, a company spokeswoman said.

Representatives from the likes of Microsoft and IBM endorsed the efforts and said they will participate in drawing up the specs.

"XML is an outstanding standard that IBM and all the other vendors have rallied behind," said Jeffrey Jaffe, general manager of eNetwork Software and Security at IBM.

Also at the conference yesterday, Novell announced its own XML-based directory software product for integrating network services. Called DirXML, the software will allow applications, network operating systems, databases and network devices to be connected, the company said. The standardization of XML "plays into our own products," said Chris Stone, vice president of strategic and corporate development at Novell.

Bow Street will announce its XML-based Internet networking product in the next month, Serfass said.

Microsoft, which has opposed such open-source initiatives as the Linux operating system and Apache Web server, endorsed Bow Street's project. The software giant said it will include DSML specifications in software from ZoomIT Corp., the metadirectory company it acquired last week, according to Peter Houston, product manager for Microsoft's Active Directory.

In other directory-related news, Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc. said they are extending their agreement to jointly develop Cisco Networking Services for Microsoft's Active Directory.

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