Critical Path puts directory in line with Web services

Directory vendor Critical Path Inc. Wednesday released updates to its two core products as it attempts to position itself in the battle to provide directory services for managing users and access control information to support Web services.

The company unveiled CP Directory 4.1 and CP Meta-Directory Server 3.3, which in combination begin to form a fault-tolerant directory that can be used to tie together data from any number of sources to support the authentication and authorization of users within and outside an organization.

Critical Path is scrambling to keep pace with competitors such as SunOne (formerly IPlanet), Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. who are positioning their directories to become the corporate plumbing for directory-enabled applications such as single sign-on and provisioning.

"This is the first indication that Critical Path intends to do some dramatic things in the directory market," says Mike Neuenschwander, senior analyst at The Burton Group Corp. in Midvale, Utah. He says Critical Path is feeling the pressure to become a general-purpose directory for storing user identification information. On top of that, he says, the company also is feeling pressure on the metadirectory side from vendors of provisioning software, which is used to automatically activate or deactivate accounts for such things as e-mail and network access when a user either enters or exits a company.

"Most companies now don't see the difference between metadirectory and provisioning," says Neuenschwander. "They want to do either or. The two are coming together. Provisioning is a specialized use of metadirectory."

Metadirectories are used to synchronize data from multiple sources into a single user profile. Provisioning software lacks the synchronization capabilities, but it has powerful workflow and business process tools used for setting up and tearing down user accounts that metadirectories lack.

It is in that climate that Critical Path is trying to reposition its product line.

"What we are doing is laying the foundation for a full Web services integration story," Critical Path CTO Mike Serbinis says. Serbinis says the company is taking the first steps toward building a Web services platform for managing users.

The company is adding an XML connector in CP Meta-Directory 3.3 that will be the bridge for integrating XML-based user information with the directory. Critical Path also has added support for the Directory Services Markup Language 2.0, which is used to allow disparate directories to share information.

All that information will be aggregated in CP Directory 4.1, which has been integrated with Critical Path's Business Continuity Server to provide a failover capability. Critical Path also has enhanced its ties to Netegrity Inc.'s SiteMinder and Entrust Inc.'s Authority PKI software for authenticating users and authorizing access to network systems.

Critical Path also has fine tuned its directory management software by adding the ability to delegate management duties, such as changing passwords or managing groups of users, on a per administrator basis.

CP Directory 4.1 and CP Meta-Directory Server 3.3 are available now. The price of the software, including both the directory and metadirectory, based on 2,500 users starts at $150,000.

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