Novell joins disparate networks

Novell Inc. has released an updated version of its metadirectory software that lets users connect to a wider array of systems, and offers new tools to manage those connections.

Like the first version, DirXML 1.1 is based on NDS eDirectory and uses extensible markup language (XML) to link user data and create a metadirectory that “joins” data from disparate networks, and combine it into a logical whole.

According to Ross Chevalier, Markham, Ont.-based director of technology for Novell Canada, requests from customers to add applications – such as mySAP HR – plus an industry-wide increase in XML skills have impacted this update.

“In the 1.1. engine, we’ve updated a number of the connectors – that is, the drivers – that allow us to connect to things like Microsoft NT domains, to text files and even to our own messaging product GroupWise, and we’ve added some tools to configure the policy rules. We’ve also provided some enhancements to the logging and auditing capability so (XML-savvy customers) can test their new scripts, trap any errors that they might create and get a better sense of how things are moving,” Chevalier said.

Chip DiComo, Miami-based director of global information infrastructure for shipping firm Hellman Worldwide Logistics, was just about to deploy DirXML 1.1 to control and secure the e-mail system in his dispersed, 100-server NDS environment at press time.

“Because our address book includes partners, employees and customers, it’s a management nightmare, so we’re creating a central identity management directory that will be authoritative across all our databases. We’ll go to this NDS-based directory to create a user’s identity, and from that creation process we’ll populate them into a Lotus Notes name and address book. Right now we’ve got several people managing the address book and constantly having some problems, so we’re hoping to automate much of that process through DirXML,” DiComo said.

Another new feature of DirXML 1.1 is “support remotability,” said Chevalier. Because drivers can now sit separate from the directory and the DirXML engine, the software will run on remote machines that aren’t on NetWare networks, he said.

With DirXML acting as a link between the directory and outside Web-based systems, Novell has shored up its position, and has been given a boost to its consulting arm, said Marshall Martin, managing director at Zoma Research in Redwood, Calif.

“DirXML is a key technology for Novell because of the potential it has for integrating personalization systems. Every vendor want to control access-control lists and authorization, and none of their personalization engines work with one another,” Martin said.

Once DirXML is up and running, DiComo plans to expand it to manage sales leads and other information harvested from Hellman’s Web site. With minimal customization, he hopes DirXML will take prospects information, populate it to the CRM tool and use existing address information, and deliver the lead directly to sales staff.

Coincidentally receiving a call from a Novell escalation manger while speaking with Network World Canada, DiComo said the company’s support has generally been very strong, especially on the tricky Lotus Notes integration.

DirXML 1.1 lists at $45 per user, and the SAP HR driver lists for $16 per user.