Kearns' column: Taking stock of '99 and what 2000 will bring

A year ago I predicted 1999 would be "The Year of the Directory," and I got it right. Years from now, we'll look back at 1999 as the year the directory took over the network arena.

The only thing I got wrong was the release schedule for Microsoft's Active Directory (part of Windows 2000), which now has been put off until February. That doesn't change the accuracy of the prediction, though, because waiting for a solid, robust Active Directory would take us well into 2001 and the anticipation of Active Directory was enough impetus to get all the directory players moving quickly throughout 1999.

I also didn't foresee the rise of XML as a directory-enabling technology, but the recently released Version 1.0 specification for the Directory Services Markup Language (DSML) will be the biggest boon to cross-directory synchronisation and integration since the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). In fact, DSML will be even bigger than LDAP because it's designed from the ground up to support directory synchronisation.

Among the highlights of the year, directorywise, were the consolidation of the Directory-Enabled Network specifications with the Desktop Management Task Force's Common Information Model; the release of Novell's new version of Novell Directory Services -- now called eDirectory -- for multiple platforms; Microsoft's purchase of Zoomit for its cross-directory synchronisation expertise; the beginning of a new application category - possibly the killer application for directories -- called eProvisionware; and the emergence of third-party directory-management vendors (Fastlane, Mission Critical, Netvision and others) as the only real contenders for venture capital (and market capitalization) against the ubiquitous "e" businesses or ".coms."

What about next year?

New versions of so-called network operating systems from Microsoft (Windows 2000) and Novell (NetWare 5.1) will strike the death knell of LANs as they reach out to encompass a world of connected users. Directory services will take its rightful place as the plumbing that holds together the internetworked world. Everything -- from your computer to your toaster -- will become directory-enabled. The wireless application protocol will bring network and server management to your cell phone. Supply-chain management will finally become realistic with the use of XML, DSML and Microsoft's well-thought-out BizTalk initiative.

In other news, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will continue to be a source of controversy and will become largely ignored as people devise ways to get things done quickly and efficiently. And Judge Jackson will determine that Microsoft should be broken into at least two parts -- operating systems and applications. This will lead to Wall Street becoming disenchanted with high tech, bursting the .com bubble.

Happy New Year!

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.

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