Oracle, Novell Partner in Directory Services

In a move to go two against one with Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. announced late last month an agreement with Novell Inc. to integrate the companies' enterprise directory services: the new Oracle Internet Directory.

In a move to go two against one with Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. announced late last month an agreement with Novell Inc. to integrate the companies' enterprise directory services: the new Oracle Internet Directory (OID), which was released simultaneously with the partnership announcement, and Novell Directory Services (NDS). When Microsoft releases Windows 2000 later this year, it will include Active Directory Services, a much touted and inseparable feature of the forthcoming OS. The Oracle-Novell agreement also brings Oracle's 8i database support to NDS.

Officials at Oracle say OID will have two editions. The first is the Enterprise Edition, available for corporations that use directories to cover everything inside the firewall. The second is what they call the Hosting Edition for ISPs, telcos and directories outside of the firewall, which will provide more protection for Internet related services.

Jeremy Burton, vice president of server marketing at Oracle, says the Internet not only changes everything -- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's catch phrase -- but it also makes maintaining directory services more difficult because the number of directories available to each individual has increased because data is much more accessible today.

With the recent agreement, Burton says administrators will only need a single logon to access both OID and NDS residing on the same network. He also says both services comply with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Lightweight Directory Update Protocol (LDUP) and other standards.

Although NDS is one of the most widely used directory services, it has been criticized for not reaching enough platforms. It has been compatible with Windows NT, NetWare, Sun Solaris and IBM System 390. Now NDS will reach everywhere Oracle 8i does.

But one big question about the partnership remains: Why would Novell and Oracle need to team their services together? The announcement actually received negative commentary at the press conference because it makes each company’s product look incomplete if they're not joined. Adrian Viego, general manager of strategic relations for Novell, says there are more announcements to come relating to the agreement that he could not address as this issue went to press.

Addressing the same criticism, Oracle's Burton explained, "The thing we know best in the enterprise is Oracle, and someone who can improve that is Novell." He says that by teaming together and adhering to industry standards, the companies can provide best of breed tools. He also says this was not done to compete with Active Directory.

Peter Houston, lead product manager with the Windows NT marketing group, says the announcement could be confusing for customers. "Which directory does Oracle recommend?" Houston asks.

Stephen Elliot, analyst with Dataquest (, says Oracle needed OID and NDS together to support its own database software. "There's not a single company out there that can do this by itself," Elliot says. "You need partnerships. You'll have companies like Cisco and Lucent pushing out deals with both Microsoft and Novell. You'll see a lot of these partnerships taking place, especially as a key aspect to directories."

There have been market rumors that one directory service will be used as a "meta-directory" with which a systems administrator can view and edit all directory services in a heterogeneous environment. Those rumors haven't been confirmed by this announcement, and Elliot doesn't believe it's even possible yet. "The level of integration won't be as deep as end users would like," he says. Elliot also believes services such Active Directory and NDS don't necessarily have to be incompatible. He says that with a certain level of integration, it won't be impossible to use both, just more difficult.

Microsoft's Houston says Active Directory is an ideal solution as a meta-directory, except Microsoft terms it as an Enterprise Directory Service because the enterprise is where it would be more helpful. He says administrators in the Fortune 1000 have been asking for a solution to the "hire-fire" problem where employees are hired and fired everyday. To change directory objects in what can amount to 100 different directories is extremely time consuming. Houston says Enterprise Directory Services will make that easier by being able to drop in a single user object into one directory and the other directories will automatically update.