Novell Uses XML, LDAP, NDS to Manage AD, IOS, etc.

  • Written By: C. McNulty
  • Published: April 14 2000


Event Summary

[24 March 2000 - ZDNet] Novell Inc. [NASDAQ:NOVL] used its user conference to test the efficacy of recent efforts to simplify its marketing message and attract a new generation of customers to buy into its directory-centric e-business strategy. A key piece of that strategy is the DirXML metadirectory, which Novell demonstrated in beta form at its BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City.

DirXML enables Novell's NDS eDirectory to inherit information from the many legacy directories in an enterprise and display it to an administrator, who can then manipulate and manage that information from the eDirectory interface. DirXML uses LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) to connect to other directories and XML (Extensible Markup Language) to communicate between directories.

Market Impact

This gets Novell three-quarters of the way there. NDS is almost universally regarded as the ne plus ultra of corporate directories. This is especially true when compared to systems like Windows NT's domain security. Microsoft's Active Directory, a feature of Windows 2000, goes a long way toward bridging the feature gap. Paradoxically, it is running into many of the same issues that plagued NDS when NDS debuted in 1993 as part of NetWare 4.0 - it is potentially so complex that global organizations may take years to implement it.

This is why the DirXML strategy could be a winner. Rather than use native NDS on each platform supported, DirXML promises to let you leave each legacy directory (e.g., NT domains, Solaris user accounts, Cisco IOS) in its own native format. This eliminates the need for changes to each legacy directory's software and schema.

Here are Novell's NDS building blocks:

  • NDS eDirectory: central, extensible repository of all directory data

  • LDAP: de facto standard for querying and adding to a given directory - the SQL of directories, if you will

  • XML: a tool for adding unique, legacy platform specific information types to the records being exchanged

  • Transport protocol: Undetermined

Microsoft has proposed using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) as a means of exchanging XML data via HTTP. Novell needs to complete the fourth piece of its puzzle, either by accepting or competing with SOAP. (Hint: avoid reliance on Redmond at all costs.)

User Recommendations

Warning: as with most network products, you are now entering an acronym rich environment. Bring a dictionary.

This is open beta software, and the final product could vary in functionality. But no two enterprise structures are alike. Neither Active Directory, nor NDS, can be all things to all people. Paradoxically, this could be a better solution to bridging mixed NT domain/AD environments. Novell shops should certainly evaluate it. Complex NT/2000 environments with many complex directories (Unix-hosted databases, mail systems, NetWare 3.X servers, etc.) may also want to take a look.

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