Kearns' column: Why 1999 will be the Year of the Directory

Expect to hear about year 2000 issues ad nauseum between now and year-end. Here in Austin, Texas, it was the front page headline in the first Sunday paper of the year. Don't expect to read a lot about it in "Wired Windows", however - unless something really startling happens.

I expect 1999 to be remembered as the Year of the Directory, the year in which directory-centric computing becomes the norm, not just for business computing, but also for personal and recreational computing.

All the major directory vendors (Novell, Sun, Netscape and, later this year, Microsoft) will vastly improve the speed, scope and ease-of-access of their products.

More importantly, though, there will be simpler and more secure integration and synchronisation across directories, as well as better directory identity for every object on the network. This thanks to the work of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and Directory Enabled Network groups.

Even the year 2000 problem (OK, I mentioned it - but this is important) will be helped by the move to directory-centric computing. As you move to new directory-enabled applications, you'll get year 2000 compliance in the bargain.

Easier administration for you, easier access for your users, better control of users and the devices they use, year 2000 compliance - the benefits of directory-centric computing are compelling. Forward thinking network administrators who haven't already done so should immerse themselves in the process of understanding the directory, its uses and its possibilities.

These are the administrators who'll be in high demand during the next few years because they truly will be able to do more with less; they'll have more control and ease-of-use while spending less on manpower, training and travel.

We can enjoy smaller IS departments and reduce our training budgets as computer-based training, presented as a directory-centric application, replaces the much more costly use of outside training facilities.

Adaptive bandwidth, controlled through the directory, will bring online meetings and conferencing to more enterprises, cutting travel budgets and the loss of productivity that travel causes. Proactive troubleshooting with directory-based network monitoring software will reduce downtime and thus enhance productivity.

You get all these benefits, and yet your job is easier. You become a hero to the chief financial officer, the CEO and the end users while enhancing your value to both your current company and the one you move to next.

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

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