Active Directory for Unix lagging

While IT organizations looking to use Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory on Unix are finding they will have to wait longer than expected, Novell Inc.

While IT organizations looking to use Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory on Unix are finding they will have to wait longer than expected, Novell Inc. has offered an alternative.

Cisco Systems Inc. conceded last week that porting of its CNS/AD (Cisco Networking Services for Active Directory) to Solaris and HP-UX is behind schedule.

The Unix software was scheduled to ship eight months ago, but delays in Windows 2000 have put the release off until between May and August of next year, said Cisco officials in San Jose, Calif.

"Yes, [Microsoft's delays] have impacted us," said David Jones, general manager of Cisco's networking services team.

Cisco cannot finish porting Active Directory to Unix until Microsoft's code is completely debugged and frozen. At this stage, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has yet to finalize Windows 2000 and its bundled directory service. Windows 2000 is slated for general release Feb. 17.

The CNS/AD delay gives Novell an opportunity to further seed the market with its NDS (Novell Directory Services), and that's exactly what the Provo, Utah, company is doing.

Novell has released a repackaged version of NDS Version 8, called NDS eDirectory. The new version allows users to buy one directory and choose the platform—NetWare, Windows NT or Solaris—on which it will run.

Support for Linux is due early next year, officials said.

eDirectory, which Novell released at Comdex earlier this month, signals a shift in Novell's marketing and pricing. The product will ship at $2 per managed user, far less expensive than previous iterations.

One user at a major financial institution said he hopes Novell's shift in marketing and pricing is enough to persuade his bosses to stick with NDS for the long haul.

"We're finally making progress on leveraging NDS more, but with Active Directory around the corner, there's a chance NDS can be replaced if Novell doesn't come through in the next couple of years," said the user, who requested anonymity.

Novell must continue to take advantage of the time it has before Active Directory becomes widely available, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. Because of Windows' huge installed base, Active Directory will become a major player by default when users upgrade to Windows 2000.

"Novell has a year or so to capture the market before Microsoft's entry is felt," Kusnetzky said. "Even if Novell has the better product, Microsoft effectively [will have] Novell surrounded."

Additional reporting by John S. McCright