Novell sharpening directory tool

In an effort to attract new customers to its e-business strategy, Novell will debut DirXML at its BrainShare conference.

Novell will this week use 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 will debut in beta form at its BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, sources said.

The Provo, Utah, company is also preparing to create an e-business group, though it may not be ready to announce the group next week, other sources said.

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.

"Novell has to provide some level of integration with existing directories; all of the enterprise directory 'wannabes' do," said Jamie Lewis, an analyst at The Burton Group, in Atlanta. "Without the tools to integrate customers' very fragmented directory infrastructure, you're just another directory that needs to be integrated."

General availability of the software is expected by the end of the year, sources said.

Novell, which is vying with Microsoft for enterprise directory customers, expects DirXML to compete with tools that Microsoft acquired last year from Zoomit. However, according to Lewis, a missing link remains in both vendors' offerings: a standard protocol to transfer XML. Microsoft, has proposed a technology called Simple Object Access Protocol, or SOAP, that uses HTTP and is said to be uncomplicated. "I like that SOAP is simple and doesn't try to do too much," Lewis said.

Until there's a true standard, though, there will be some uncertainty with metadirectories, he added.

Novell's new e-Business Group will have dual roles: enabling e-business for Novell customers and key constituencies and assisting "product groups to deliver products, services and partnerships that make the Net easier to use for customers," according to a presentation Novell made recently to some of its reseller partners. The presentation also talked about consolidating and repositioning Novell's Web site.

"There are in excess of 30 distinct Novell Web sites with ... 350,000-plus pages of content," the presentation states. "The new architecture will link all the disparate sites and deliver integrated, dynamic content to users, based on their unique identify (sic). Tools will be pushed out to the enterprise to manage business on the Web." Among the projects listed in the presentation as targets for automation online by the e-Business Group are "Web EDI, iSupport, One Price List and One Catalogue," the latter two probably reflecting Novell's new "One Net" marketing campaign, the sources said.

Novell officials declined to comment on unannounced products or initiatives.

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