Novell CEO says directories key to e-commerce

Directory technology, which consolidates a user's information centrally on a network, is critical to the success and development of electronic commerce, Novell Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said at Compaq's Innovate Forum 99.

"Directory and identity are two sides of the same coin. You need a directory to know who you're dealing with. You can't do e-commerce if you don't know who you're dealing with," Schmidt said during his Innovate Forum 99 keynote. "Without a directory you can't make the next-stage transition; you can't make it to a true e-business solution."

Staying outside of the e-commerce loop is not an option for companies that want to be successful, because the Internet is changing the way business is conducted and the way society in general works, Schmidt said.

Directories are the key to making the jump from the Internet's first phase, characterised by mere connections, to the second phase, which is anchored by a deeper understanding of who the users are and marked by trust and relationships, Schmidt said.

The Internet's first phase has been so successful "that it has become a success disaster," Schmidt said. Nobody can find anything on the Internet anymore, he added.

"I have five e-mail accounts and five phones, and nobody can find me," Schmidt said.

But directory technology is the key to moving to a real e-commerce environment with intelligent networks, Schmidt said.

Directories will also let users determine how they will be contacted and have control over how their information is used on the Net.

This is a big outstanding issue in the Internet today, because it is not clear "whether you use the Internet or whether the Internet uses you," Schmidt said.

With the help of three assistants, Schmidt demonstrated several Novell products, including ZENworks and Novell Directory Services (NDS), that let companies create and store centrally in the network a single profile for every user. This way, users get access to all of their network resources by logging on once, instead of multiple times. It also lets them have, while on the road, the same access and applications configuration they have on their office desktops.

Additionally, Novell's directory technology lets IT departments configure users' desktops automatically from a central location, which eliminates the need, for example, to manually load software on PCs, Schmidt said.

"The reason we built these products is that customers told us that every time they touch a PC client something goes wrong or their costs go way up," Schmidt said, an assertion that drew applause from the audience. "This turned out to be single biggest cost-driver in their entire MIS structures."

Schmidt also demonstrated how he was able to search for one particular user on an NDS directory loaded with 1 billion objects -- 1.7T bytes of data -- and get an instantaneous response to his query.

Schmidt also demonstrated a new caching server, co-developed with Compaq, which is due in 90 days and designed to improve the response times of Web servers. Novell first announced the product at its Brainshare conference earlier this year.

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