Directories are key, Schmidt says

Directory technology, which consolidates a user's information centrally on a network, is critical to the success and development of electronic commerce, Novell's chairman and chief executive officer Eric Schmidt said here yesterday.

"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 at Compaq's Innovate Forum '99 yesterday. "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 electronic-commerce loop is not an option for companies that want to be successful, since the Internet is changing the way business is conducted and the way society in general works, he 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, he 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, he 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's not clear "whether you use the Internet or whether the Internet uses you".

With the help of three assistants, Schmidt demonstrated several Novell products, including Z.E.N.works and NDS (Novell Directory Services), that let companies create and store centrally in the network a single profile for every user. This way, users get access to all 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.

Novell's directory technology also lets IS departments configure users' desktops automatically from a central location, which eliminates the need to, for example, 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 the single biggest cost-driver in their entire IS structures."

Schmidt also demonstrated how he was able to search for one particular user on an NDS directory loaded with 1 billion objects -- 1.7 terabytes of data - and get a 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 recently.

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