Led by IBM, Novell, and Oracle, an industry group has been formed to speed the standardisation of directory technologies.
Called the Directory Interoperability Forum, the group says it is committed to working with existing standards bodies to accelerate the adoption of technologies that will build on the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.
These would include replication services, security, and a standard schema (most likely via the Extensible Markup Language) across directories, said Chris Stone, Novell's senior vice president for strategy and corporate development.
By committing to the use of these standards, the members of the Directory Interoperability Forum hope to help users control some of the madness that comes with trying to manage multiple proprietary directories.
"It's not unusual to see upwards of 50 directories in use [in one organisation]," said Jeremy Burton, vice president of tools marketing at Oracle. "Customers are looking to consolidate into a smaller number of standard [directories]."
Noticeably missing from the initiative are directory players Microsoft and Netscape.
A Microsoft representative said the company will wait to see what the forum achieves before deciding whether to join.
For its part, Netscape agreed with the forum's goals but objected to the directory vendors being the only ones in the forum to have a say, therefore excluding independent software vendors (ISVs) whose products work with directories.
"The question was, do we want to make standards inside a country club or inside a town hall?" said Frank Chen, director of product management for the Sun-Netscape Alliance's directory and security products division.
According to Novell's Stone, the directory providers will give ISVs a consistent set of standard APIs. This will make it easier for them to write software for their different directories, Stone said.
Each of the directory providers plans to distribute to its ISVs software development kits that contain the standard API set by year's end.
"We will transition our products, if they are designed in a proprietary model, to use these APIs," Stone said.
Much like the Unix model, each vendor will continue to add value on top of that common set, Stone added.