Novell, Lucent Partner for Directory-Enabled Networking

Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are at each other’s throats again.

At October’s Networld+Interop in Atlanta, Novell Inc. and Lucent Technologies (Murray Hill, N.J., announced a partnership to create Directory-Enabled Networking standards. Also part of the agreement, the two companies announced that Lucent will bundle and integrate NDS with management software for its Cajun P550 Switch -- a layer 2 switching, level 3 routing Ethernet platform -- and that NDS will be integrated with other Lucent switches later in the year.

The agreement comes after a similar pact was made in August between Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc., through which the two companies aim to create a standard for directory services and Cisco licensed Microsoft’s Active Directory.

"The Microsoft and Cisco agreement basically shut Novell out. It was bad for users and bad for Novell because it gave Microsoft a way to reach enterprise customers," says Eddie Hold, analyst with Current Analysis (Sterling, Va.), a market research firm.

Novell’s agreement with Lucent, much the same as the Microsoft and Cisco deal, aims to create a directory-enabled network standard, as well as integrate network equipment, such as routers and switches, with directory services. The companies claim the agreement will allow customers to improve their network management and cost controls.

"We’ll be working through the DMTF [Desktop Management Task Force] to ensure that as we push toward a directory-enabled network, it is within an open standard," says Ron Palmeri, vice president of strategic relationships, Novell. "We’re not driving this toward proprietary protocols. We want to keep this open."

Lucent and Novell will collaborate on new standards proposals, specifically in the area of Directory-Enabled Networks (DEN) interoperability. Since both are members of the DMTF, the solutions will be based on the Common Information Model (CIM) and DEN specifications.

The DEN specification includes a standard approach to defining schema for integrating network equipment into a directory service. The industry standard LDAP will be used for interfacing NDS with Lucent’s products.

With Windows 2000 on the horizon, the biggest competitor to NDS will likely be Microsoft Corp.’s Active Directory. "We intend for NDS to be able to work with Active Directory, and Microsoft has stated that Active Directory will conform to the DEN specification," Palmeri says.

But don’t look for the companies to call a truce anytime soon. "It’s possible that NDS and Active Directory will coexist within large networks, but they won’t actually work together," Hold says.

In the long run, though, Hold maintains that the efforts of both the Microsoft and Cisco side and the Novell and Lucent sides will result in a standard for network management. "Ultimately it shouldn’t matter if NDS or Active Directory is used, and it won’t matter if both OS’s are used because they’ll both be managed through a standardized directory," he says. "Windows 2000 is a step in the direction toward better management, but it will be quite a while until we have directory-enabled networking, because everybody wants it, but everybody wants to put their two pence worth in."