Novell, MS spar on NDS for NT

When it comes to geek gamesmanship, Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. take second place to nobody.
Written by Margaret Kane, Contributor

In the latest instance of jockeying between the two rivals, Novell (NOVL) declared plans to offer technical support for users of its Directory Services who want to run the software on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT.

The move follows a warning by Microsoft that it will not support those users because the company claimed that NDS "poses serious technical concerns."

Microsoft posted to its Web site last week an article claiming that Novell's NDS for NT product compromises the security of NT Server because it replaces a core security dynamic link library with a Novell security component. Novell promptly retaliated, by posting an article to its home page entitled, "Microsoft won't support their customers, but Novell will."

Novell's article refutes a number of the points raised in Microsoft's piece, including the fact that the Novell-"enhanced" SAMLIB.DLL

security account manager breaks NT Server and/or NT Service packs.

"If you have concerns about Microsoft's threats [not to support NDS for NT], let them know about it and then give Novell a call for the support you are denied," the Novell article concludes.

The public barbs are in direct contrast to the increasing directory service cooperation that the two companies had been evidencing in recent

months. Novell officials had backed publicly Microsoft's development interfaces for Active Directory, Microsoft's directory service architecture that will be at the heart of NT Server 5.0. Novell representatives had attended Active Directory Services Interface design previews. Both companies are on the record backing the Light-weight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

But with Novell's introduction late last year of Novell Directory Services (NDS) for NT, it seems as though the networking vendor may have wreaked havoc with Microsoft's plans to ultimately obviate the need for NDS. With NT Server 4.0, Microsoft had provided tools designed to let NT view Netware clients as part of an NT network. And as of NT 5.0, Microsoft has committed to providing a migration utility to move customers from NDS to Active Directory.

NDS began as a piece of Novell's Intranetware operating system that allows users to hierarchically manage networks.

The company broke it out as a separate product last year, offering versions for Unix, and in December began offering an NT version. The goal was to allow users to manage multiple operating systems with a common directory infrastructure.

Microsoft's new version of NT will have its own directory service tools. In a statement posted on its Web site, Microsoft said the move was not

designed to "protect its investment in its own directory service technologies."

Rather, the company lists a series of issues with NDS that it says cause NT server to be "implemented ... in a way that is detrimental for customers."

Specifically, Microsoft says NDS for NT replaces certain files, making the system less secure. Microsoft also claims that using NDS for NT will prevent users from upgrading it with Microsoft service packs, or with the NT 5.0 upgrade.

Novell counters in its statement, posted to the Novell Web site last week, that only one file is replaced, and that it does not compromise the system's security. It also says that upgrades will not be a problem.

A Novell spokeswoman said the company was not surprised by Microsoft's announcement. She said Novell will offer support to users not covered by Microsoft. The company also urged its users to let Microsoft know if they "have concerns about Microsoft's threats."

But Mike Nash, Microsoft's marketing director for NT Server, dismissed Novell's suggestion that it was playing hardball.

"There are no threats," he said. "We just want to help customers."

However, Nash said Novell's approach would compromise system security and ultimately cause more problems than it resolves.

"Our concern is that while this may be a good short-term solution, there may be longer-term issues," he said. "The most basic one is we're talking about changing the system and security of the operating system."

Microsoft has since privately communicated its concerns to Novell, according to Nash.

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