Novell has quietly shelved a key directory integration tool, which is likely to force IT executives with mixed environments to make an either/or choice between NetWare and Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 2000.
And that choice may not be good news for Novell.
At issue is the redirect capability of Novell Directory Services (NDS) for NT. Redirect allows users to reroute authentication and access-control calls made to NT 4.0 domains into NDS, which nearly eliminates user management on NT servers.
However, in NDS 8 for NT, the next version of the software, a bi-directional synchronisation tool called DirXML is replacing the redirect.
The switch means NDS shops will no longer be able to sidestep administration in the Microsoft environment if they upgrade to Windows 2000 Active Directory.
Administrators will have to manage both network operating system directory services.
"The lack of redirect puts pressure on NDS customers to choose between Novell and Microsoft," Daniel Blum, an analyst with The Burton Group, said.
"Customers can't continue to run both directories in parallel quite as easily as they once could. The value proposition of NDS is reduced."
Novell seems to be in a better position to satisfy customers right now because Active Directory is not shipping and will be nothing short of challenging to deploy when it does.
But Novell appears to be hedging its bet that users will eventually accept synchronisation, the same technology Microsoft is developing, over redirection.
While synchronisation is not a bad alternative to redirect, it can mean as much as a 60 per cent increase in administration for NetWare shops running NDS for NT, according to experts.
Putting redirect on the back burner is not entirely Novell's doing. Microsoft tried to make redirection impossible when developing Active Directory, according to observers. When coupled with Novell's decision to shelve redirect, it pushes users into a fog of choices.
According to Cliff Smith, Novell Australia's managing director: "Novell is developing technology that will synchronise NDS objects with Active Directory objects.
"This bidirectional synchronisation technology allows administration from either NDS utilities or Active Directory utilities -- something not possible with Microsoft's DIRSYNC technology".
Smith claims Novell expects to provide an NDS to Active Directory synchronisation product "shortly after market introduction of Windows 2000".
IT executives can install NDS 8, and upgrade to NDS 8 for NT and deploy the 1.0 release of DirXML, both of which ship early next year. Novell will release migration and upgrade tools for DirXML, a set of directory connectors. The upgrade also requires NetWare 5.0 and a new client.
Users could also uninstall NDS for NT, migrate off NetWare, and adopt Windows 2000 Active Directory. They could run NDS and synchronise it with Active Directory or vice versa.
IT executives also could opt to run NDS natively on multiple platforms. Versions of NDS 8 for NT, Linux and Solaris are expected to ship in 60 days. And a version for Windows 2000 is under development, according to Paul Corriveau, product marketing manager for NDS.
Users also have the option of running NetVision's Synchronicity, which provides a single point of user administration through NetWare Administrator, the management console for NDS.