Novell lays out road map for new directory services

Novell Inc. today plans to unveil an 18-month road map for its eDirectory server software, dubbed Project Destiny, that outlines its strategy to extend secure identity management to every aspect of Web services.

But while the software maker is drawing analysts’ praise for heading in the right direction, so far the only product that has an expected year’s end ship date is the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) server that’s being built on its eDirectory server.

“They have a lot of good ideas, and they’ve had them for a while. But when are they going to deliver?” said Mike Neuenschwander, an analyst at Burton Group in Midvale, Utah. “They’re trying to jump the gun and be a thought leader. It’s more important for them to be a product leader.”

At least with the Web services and UDDI plans, Novell may be running ahead of the demand curve. IT departments have hardly been rushing to build Web services or use public UDDI repositories that can help them find information about how their trading partners want to interact.

The first part of Novell’s directory services road map calls for the addition of a server to its eDirectory that will bring user authentication and access control to UDDI registries. That will allow authorized users to add information to and query information from UDDI registries, according to Ed Anderson, director of product management for the company’s identity services group.

Anderson said he anticipates that large companies will start to deploy internal UDDI repositories next year. He predicted that some will experiment with the federation of their internal repositories so they can share information with business partners. “It will become more prominent in 2004 and forward,” he said.

Neuenschwander said the UDDI server represents only “one-sixteenth” of what Novell wants to do through its Destiny road map. “The marketing guys are getting ahead of the engineering guys,” he said.

No timetable was announced for several key pieces of the plan, other than that they will be delivered next year, according to a Novell spokesman.

Those pieces include native support for XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) in the eDirectory server; a single point of management for user identities drawn from multiple applications and services; a rules-based engine that will help directories manage user access to network resources; and a federated system that will allow businesses to securely share identity information with business partners.

Anderson said the initial pieces will be modular add-ons to eDirectory, which is the foundation of Project Destiny.

John Enck, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said the real value in Novell’s directory services plan will be from policy-based identity management, which will allow more users to be administered by fewer people.

“You’re not going to have to burn IT resources for a simple task like adding or maintaining user information in multiple directories,” Enck said.