Oracle, Siemens team on directories

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With enterprise demand for directory integration at an all-time high, Oracle and Siemens last week became the latest major vendors to answer the call, forming an alliance to deliver a metadirectory product and a set of related support services.

The metadirectory market has heated up over the past five months, with IBM, Microsoft, Novell and Sun/Netscape adding metadirectory technology to their product portfolios. The technology links disparate directories to a central hub that can synchronize and manage the directory data.

Large enterprises have on average 180 directories, according to Forrester Research. Integration of those directories, rather than wholesale consolidation, is what enterprise users are demanding.

"Metadirectory is no longer a transition technology -- it is here to stay," says Don Bowen, directory architect for a heavy equipment manufacturer in the Midwest. "Vendors have to put integration tools in the box; the message can't be 'Integration? Go find someone else to do it for you.' " Bowen has been working since 1997 on integrating directories to support electronic commerce and network applications.

Oracle in March released Oracle Internet Directory, which is built on top of the company's 8i database and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. Now Oracle will package its directory, database and other applications with Siemens' DirXmetahub as an electronic commerce platform.

Oracle envisions Siemens' DirXmetahub, which was released 18 months ago, as the mechanism to connect other corporate directories to Or-acle's e-commerce platform. The Siemens product is a rules-based engine that allows the creation of authoritative directories which can synchronize data with data in a metadirectory and its subordinate directories. For example, a human resources directory can be the authoritative source for adding users, with those additions then synchronized with e-mail and other directories.

The Oracle-Siemens offering will incorporate the emerging Directory Services Markup Language (DSML), which is being developed by Novell, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Sun/Netscape. DSML lets directories exchange information about their data formats, such as user names, using XML, and is seen as key for e-commerce.

Oracle and Siemens also will offer consulting services, much like other metadirectory vendors have begun providing.

"In the metadirectory space, it's 50% product and 50% services. So it makes sense for Oracle and Siemens to offer both," says Peter Schnitter, president of Siemens' metadirectory services division.

Oracle would not discuss details of its directory consulting services or pricing for the metadirectory, which is expected to ship in the first half of next year.

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